NEW YORK—City Comptroller John Liu’s pitch to raise the minimum wage in New York City to $11.50 per hour was deemed a “dead loser” by a spokesman for a leading small business association.
Jack Mozloom, regional spokesperson for National Federation of Independent Business, said there is no research to back Liu’s assertion that raising the wage by so much would help small businesses.
New York State law also does not allow cities to set their own minimum wage.
Liu argued minimum wage workers were the primary customer of small businesses, so raising the minimum wage to $11.50 would help. “The small business owners are the ones that have the customer base that are making the minimum wage so the multiplier effects you get from raising the minimum wage to the right level is going to yield enormous benefits,” he said at a mayoral candidate forum in Harlem Thursday night.
Mozloom said Liu’s argument of paying higher wages to stimulate the economy has been addressed many times, including in a report issued when New York State tried to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 in 2012.
“Our economists factored in the additional buying power that employees would get from the minimum wage increase and they still came up with job losses of 22,000,” Mozloom said. He said raising the minimum wage even higher would likely only be worse.
“If you impose a massive increase in labor costs on employers, there will be a consequence.” Mozloom said. “That consequence will offset whatever gains there may be in buying power among the employees.”
Liu gave no details as to how he would enact his plan, telling the audience to visit his website for details. On Friday, Liu’s website consisted of one page that solicited donations, but offered no “comprehensive plan” or “detailed research.” His campaign office did not return a call for comment by press time.
Former City Council member Sal Albanese noted many small businesses, who often employ minimum wage workers, are already working on thin margins and raising the minimum wage by $4.25 an hour would be hard on them. “If you dramatically raise the min wage you could drive a significant number of people out of business,” Albanese said at the forum. “We have to be balanced about it.”
Former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr., said, “Every time we raise the cost of doing anything, we have to take it from somewhere. I think we have to continue to be accountable in our approach.”
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said he would like to see a $10 per hour living wage for workers with benefits and $11.50 for those without.
“I would love to say the minimum wage should go up to $20 or $25 an hour,” former comptroller Bill Thompson said, “But the reality is, let’s get something done now. If we hope to move a minimum wage up to a realistic level right now, $9 is the level.”
Speaker Christine Quinn pushed a living wage bill through the City Council in 2012, but it is tied up in court after Mayor Michael Bloomberg sued to keep it from going into effect.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed $8.75 for New York State in January, but has since said he would carefully monitor the $9 per hour proposal from President Barack Obama.
Cities, and the office of the mayor, have the power to enact a living wage, but it would only apply to employers who receive subsidies from the city. A living wage is generally described as an hourly rate that an individual must earn to support their family.
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