Rochester, N.Y. --- A recent Siena College Research Institute poll shows that 78 percent of New Yorkers favor raising the state's minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $8.50.
New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said Tuesday that he intends to pass a bill in the Assembly that would increase the minimum wage rate by that much. He also added that he wants to see Senate Republicans face voters in November after that caucus blocks the increase, in essence indicating that this current bill is being used to some degree as a political tool.
NYS Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Long Island) has said his house does not even intend to schedule a vote on a minimum wage hike.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has expressed support for an increase but has not yet called that a legislative priority.
While the debate in Albany rages on, many here in Rochester tell 13WHAM News they do support a minimum wage hike.
"I think people ought to have a living wage and minimum wage is a step in that right direction," Jim Brown of Rochester said. "Whether we can afford to do that, that may be a question but yes I believe in it."
"There are jobs out there, they're pretty hard to do, and I don't think they pay enough," Marilyn Diaz of Rochester said.
"If we are the Empire State and we have New York City I think the level of income should reflect that and if it's not than there's a problem," Mark Giudice said.
"We just have so many people that are unemployed right now and living off the system and let's get them off of that let's get them some money," Deb Finkle of Brockport said.
The federal minimum wage is also $7.25 and New York is one of 23 states at that current level. Eighteen states (19 if you include Washington D.C.) has a minimum wage higher than $7.25. Nine states have a minimum wage below the federal level or have no minimum wage law at all.
While support from folks on the street appears evident perhaps the true question that should be explored is whether or not raising minimum wage will help the economy as a whole.
"I think it's fairly clear from the data that there is some increase in unemployment as a consequence of the increase of minimum wage how significant it is difficult to tell," Kent Gardner of the Center for Governmental Research said.
Gardner, like many economists, concedes that a minimum wage hike does redistribute wealth and would compel employers that can afford to pay their employees more to do so. Yet it's also hard to deny that there are also costs to doing so as many opponents of a minimum wage hike argue.
"It doesn't matter whether it's labor or gasoline or ethanol or anything else we can talk about if the price is up people buy less of it, if the price is lower people buy more of it," Gardner said while also acknowledging that a wage hikes true impact on unemployment is unknown.