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Cuomo dismisses rumors about special session to raise minimum wage

Governor Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo shot down rumors Wednesday that he might call a special session in December on raising the minimum wage to $15.

Reports, including on Time Warner Cable News,  say that Cuomo’s staff has been talking about the possibility of holding a special session this December to focus on phasing in a minimum wage increase to $15 an hour. Republicans in the state Senate might find it easier to  approve a minimum wage increase in this year before the 2016 election year begins. But the governor, speaking to reporters, denied any knowledge of any talks.

“I haven’t heard anyone ever suggest a special session on the minimum wage, ” Cuomo said.

The governor was asked if he was ruling out the possibility of a session before January 2016.

“I’ve never heard anyone put it in to rule it out,” he said.

Cuomo’s remarks came after business groups voiced complaints about voting on a minimum wage hike before 2016. Mike Durant with the National Federation of Independent Businesses said holding a special session near the winter holidays would not allow opponents time to voice their concerns. He believes a further increase in the minimum wage would hurt small businesses and result in job losses.

“Political pressure gets diminished when you do something between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Durant.

He said the holiday season is the busiest time for many of his members, who he says will need to be heavily engaged in the issue .

“We need this to take place in January,” Durant said.

Recently at the Business Council of New York State's annual meeting, business leaders conceded that the $15 an hour minimum wage phase in is likely to be approved by the legislature, and they said they were seeking sweeteners in the legislation to mitigate its effects including new business tax cuts and a youth employment fund.

Durant said he’s pleased that the governor is saying there won’t be a special session, but he said he’s not letting down his guard yet.

“Sometimes in  Albany, where there’s smoke there’s fire,” Durant said.

Michael Kink, with the Fair Economy for All Coalition, is a supporter of the $15 an hour minimum wage. Kink said it doesn’t matter to him when it’s passed, as long as it becomes law.

“The sooner the better, but a special session, in the budget, in the regular session -- the important thing is to get it done,” Kink said.

And Kink said the public overwhelming backs the increase and there has already been a lot of discussion about the issue. He said based on all of the attention the issue has received, the public would not be surprised or caught off guard if the law was enacted in December.

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.