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Cuomo building on minimum wage campaign

Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke about raising the minimum wage at the Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem Sunday.

The push to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour is getting some help from union financed advertising, but it still has its opponents.  

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been pushing the proposal, which he says he’ll introduce to the legislature in January, to phase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018 in the New York City region and 2021 upstate.  The governor has already taken executive action to phase in a higher minimum wage for fast food workers.

And he’s  elevated the proposal to be part of a new economic justice initiative, named after his late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo. Andrew Cuomo spoke at church in Harlem this past Sunday, where he announced that 96 clergy members have joined his effort. The governor told them that the current rate of $18,000 a year is not enough in New York.

“The numbers don’t add up,” Cuomo said “It’s simple math. The minimum age does not work. You can’t make it."

Cuomo’s also getting a boost from the health care workers union SEIU, a long time Cuomo ally, which is spending money on television advertising that features workers as well as photos of the governor .   

Even business groups are all buy conceding defeat, saying they remain against the idea but are focusing on some mitigations, like a small business tax break. Business Council of New York State President Heather Briccetti says business hopes to “soften the blow."

Cuomo has promised he’ll push for some sweeteners for business in his proposal.

“You could wind up with a win win here,” he told a recent meeting of business leaders on Lake George.

The governor still faces opposition from more conservative members of the Republican Party. At the annual GOP committee meeting, speakers warned that raising the minimum wage so steeply will impact small business and reduce jobs.

Westchester County Executive and former GOP candidate for governor, Rob Astorino, called it the “death knell” for business in New York state.

“Fifteen dollars an hour especially over a quick  period of time, will destroy these businesses,” Astorino predicts. "How’s that going to help people who are trying to get their first job of hold on to a job?”

Astorino says if the state had a better business climate, there would be more high paying jobs and no one would have to argue about raising the minimum wage.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.