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Democrats hope raising minimum wage for all will now be debated

Ellen Abbott
Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli (D-Syracuse).

Don’t expect the decision last week by the New York State Wage Board to boost the minimum wage for New York’s fast food workers to $15 an hour to be the end of the story. At least one central New York lawmaker expects this to be the beginning of a bigger debate.

For Syracuse-area Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, there’s no question that the state’s minimum wage should be upped to $15 an hour for everyone.

"I find it difficult to see people working and not being able to take care of themselves and their families. I mean a 40 [hour a week] job is a 40 hour job.  and to be living below the poverty level after you are putting in that type of work is wrong. It’s just morally wrong,” said Magnarelli

And he expects that argument to be ringing through the halls of New York state government next year.  

Magnarelli  also says something he calls the costs to taxpayers of a minimum wage that keeps workers below the poverty level is another argument for raising it.

"I hope that people realize that where we’re not paying people a decent wage, society is paying for it through tax dollars. Whether it be through food stamps or other subsidies or emergency room services because they don’t have enough money to go to the doctor.”  

Magnarelli admits the strategy employed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the labor unions of taking the issue to the wage board was the only way to get around the Republican-led state Senate, which has blocked legislative attempts to raise the wage in the past.

"It’s going to push the debate. There’s no doubt about it. There will be a lot pushback from business, but that’s good. Let’s have the debate. Let’s get it out there,” said the assemblyman.

The new increase will apply to fast food chains with more than 30 stores, and will be phased in over six years in upstate New York. Right now the state’s minimum wage stands at $8.75 an hour, and will be raised to $9 at the end of the year.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.