Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed new minimum wages for New York State and New York City to combat the widening wage gap.
Move over, Washington state. The U.S. may soon have a new minimum wage king.
During his annual State of the State address on Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo formally proposed raising the state’s minimum wage by the end of 2016 from its current $8.75 per hour level to $10.50, a figure that would give the Empire State the highest statewide minimum wage in the nation, moving past Washington’s $9.47 hourly rate. Cuomo also announced a new $11.50 minimum wage for New York City, accounting for the city’s high cost of living.
“The minimum wage is very simple,” Cuomo said on Wednesday. “We believe if you work full-time you should be able to pay the rent and pay for food and not live in poverty. That’s the basic promise of employment, and we’re not there yet,” he said.
The governor’s proposal is expected to face opposition from the Republican-controlled New York Senate.
New York’s minimum wage is set to increase to $9 next year, based on legislation that Cuomo signed into law in 2013. But Cuomo acknowledged that even though the state is in the midst of a three-year minimum wage hike phase-in period, the raises aren’t enough. “The wage gap is continuing to grow,” Cuomo said when he first announced the new wage hike proposal on Sunday.
The governor’s office did not immediately return a request for comment from Fortune on whether the state’s new minimum wage would rise based on the rate of inflation going forward.
Cuomo’s plan to give New York City its own minimum wage for the first time comes in stark contrast to his previous stance on the issue. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been calling for Albany to give him the power to set a separate minimum wage for the high-cost city since he took office a year ago. (New York State law currently prohibits cities from possessing that authority.) Last year, Cuomo said that allowing local governments set their own minimum wages would lead to a “chaotic situation.” But as the governor sought reelection last summer, his position reportedly began to loosen up. Seeking the support of the progressive Working Families Party, he backed the group’s proposal that municipalities with higher costs of living should be allowed to set their own minimum wages. That plan called for a $13.13 minimum wage in New York City, which Cuomo’s State of the State proposal failed to meet.
While the plan for a separate New York City minimum wage may seem like a major victory for de Blasio, Cuomo’s plan will reportedly keep the power to set minimum wages in the state’s hands. Cuomo’s office did not respond to a question about that aspect of the plan on Wednesday. After announcing the $11.50 wage for New York City on Sunday, the governor did say that he believed the state, not any local government, should set wages.
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