Cuomo Continues Union-backed RV Tour for $15 Wage

ALBANY (AP) -

A proposal to raise New York’s minimum wage to $15 an hour will serve as a national model, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told thousands of rallying workers Tuesday, and will cut income inequality.

The rally outside the Capitol comes as the Democratic governor’s proposal to gradually increase the wage from $9 to $15 faces a critical test in the state Legislature. The Assembly’s Democratic majority supports the plan, but the Republican leaders of the Senate warn of potentially dire effects on the economy.

While he never mentioned Donald Trump by name, Cuomo, who will be a surrogate for Democrat Hillary Clinton if she wins the nomination, clearly referenced the Republican presidential front-runner.

“You want to build walls. We want to build bridges,” he said. “They say they want to make America great again. We say you don’t know what made America great in the first place … We are going to show the nation the way to go forward: We’re going to go forward together.”

Many among his audience had traveled to Albany on union buses.

Cuomo’s plan faces challenges in the Legislature. The Senate’s Republican leaders are so far balking at the increase, saying detailed economic studies of the need for the increase and its potential effect on the economy must be completed first. Lawmakers expect to approve a budget by April 1.

“We will consider a wage increase but it has to be based on hard evidence,” Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, told an evangelical convention meeting Tuesday at the Capitol.

Business leaders predict the sharp wage increase will force business owners to raise prices, lay off workers and increase automation. In response, Cuomo proposes phasing in the increase by 2018 in New York City and by 2021 upstate to give businesses time to adjust. He’s also proposing $300 million in tax cuts for small businesses to help them absorb higher labor costs, an amount small business groups say is far too low.

In response to Cuomo’s assertion that there’s no evidence the increase would hurt the economy, the Employment Policies Institute, a conservative economic think tank, took out a full page ad in a New York City tabloid calling Cuomo a “dunce.”

“There’s so much concern about what this would do to small businesses,” said Greg Biryla, executive director of the group Unshackle Upstate, one of 52 industry groups, local chambers of commerce and other organizations that have created a coalition to fight the increase.