Income inequality hasn’t been one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s top concerns, but on Sunday he announced that he wants to make New York the state with the highest minimum wage in the country. In a move seen as an attempt to smooth over his relationship with the left wing of his party, Cuomo proposed raising the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour statewide and $11.50 an hour in New York City by the end of 2016. The state recently approved a gradual minimum-wage increase, but that would only bring the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2016. “We raised the minimum wage last year and we’re now in the midst of a minimum wage phase in schedule, and I’m proud that we raised the minimum wage,” Cuomo said. “But the wage gap is continuing to grow.”
While progressives applauded the move on Sunday, it should spark some behind-the-scenes drama. When Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested last year that he would ask Albany for permission to increase the city’s minimum wage, Cuomo dismissed the idea of local governments setting their own rates. Then Cuomo gave in on the issue when seeking the support of the Working Families Party, only to tack on caveats to granting local control.
Cuomo would also have to get the proposal past the Republican-controlled State Senate. Majority Leader Dean Skelos has said he isn’t interested in a minimum-wage hike, but Cuomo said he’s optimistic about winning over Republicans. “The world has changed,” he said. “The market is strong and I believe the market, this market, at this rate of strength, can deal with this.”