Assemblymember Cahill: Governor’s Veto of Minimum Wage Increase an Insult to Hard-Working New Yorkers

Thousands of New Yorkers will continue living in poverty
August 6, 2004

Assemblymember Kevin Cahill (D-Ulster, Dutchess) expressed disappointment that the Governor vetoed bipartisan legislation raising the State’s minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.15 per hour.

"The Governor’s decision would destroy the bridge out of poverty that thousands of New Yorkers are trying to cross," Mr. Cahill said. "Essentially, the Governor is telling those people to continue to work longer hours for less pay and less of a chance to build a better future for themselves and their families. With his veto, he’s robbed them of their dreams."

After years of pressure, the Senate finally agreed to join the Assembly in passing historic legislation to increase the state minimum wage to $6.00 per hour on January 1, 2005; $6.75 per hour on January 1, 2006; and $7.15 per hour on January 1, 2007.

Food service workers receiving tips would also receive yearly wage increases under the plan. The tip minimum wage would have climbed to $3.85 per hour on January 1, 2005; $4.35 on January 1, 2006; and $4.60 on January 1, 2007.

"We should reward people who work full-time every day to support their families, but struggle to survive living paycheck to paycheck," said Assemblymember Cahill. "It’s unacceptable that they work full-time only to collect wages that keep them in poverty."

Mr. Cahill refuted opponents of a minimum wage increase who argue that a minimum wage increase only benefits teenagers. He cited a study by the Economic Policy Institute that found that 68 percent of the workers who would directly benefit from a wage increase are adults. In addition, women account for 60 percent of those earning less than $7.25 an hour, and of those, almost half have children to clothe and feed.

Assemblymember Cahill added that the Governor – who earns $179,000 a year, or roughly $86 an hour – is closing the door of opportunity on someone making $5.15 an hour, or less than $11,000 a year.

"In these times of escalating costs for food, fuel, healthcare and other basic expenses and in view of exploding housing costs, the Governor should be more in touch," the Assemblymember added. "He needs to understand that we have a moral responsibility to lift people out of poverty. To fulfill that obligation, I strongly urge the Senate and my fellow Assemblymembers to override his veto and reward New Yorkers for their hard work," concluded Mr. Cahill.

For more information on the need to increase the minimum wage, visit the Assembly’s website at http://assembly.state.ny.us/comm/Labor/20040803/.