ALBANY, N.Y. — Businesses in New York are facing a $2 boost in the minimum wage by January 2007 after approval on Wednesday in the State Senate and Assembly. It would be the first increase in four years.
The bill, which would raise the minimum wage to $7.15 from $5.15, still has to be signed by Gov. George E. Pataki. He has not committed his support, saying he would prefer for the federal government to increase the minimum wage nationwide.
Pataki has cited the legislation as a possible harm to small businesses and said it will disadvantage the state in areas that border with New Jersey and Pennsylvania that are still at the federal minimum of $5.15.
The legislation would add New York to the list of states, including California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, that have raised their minimum wage above the federal minimum.
Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, a Republican, said inaction by the federal government led the legislature to resolve the issue for the state.
“This is great news for working families across the state,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat.
The increase would affect retailers, who employ many low-wage workers. As of June, 868,700 people were employed at retail statewide, representing 12.3 percent of private-sector employment, according to the state Department of Labor.
A spokesman for the Retail Council of New York State said the group does not oppose the bill.
“The members of the retail council decided to take no position on the issue this year in hope that if a bill was proposed, whatever increase was recommended…would be done gradually,” he said. He called the bill “one that we will work with.”
The legislation calls for a three-step phase en route to the higher wage. In January 2005, it would rise to $6. The second step would bring it to $6.75 in January 2006, with it hitting $7.15 in January 2007.
Matt Maguire, director of development for the Business Council of New York said, “Philosophically, we think the minimum wage should not be decided 50 different ways in 50 different state capitals, but should be decided in Washington, D.C.”