Contact: Jeffrey N. Maclin
(212) 614-5538 (office)
(718) 309-2346 (cell)
Today, Governor Cuomo used his State of the State address to propose more stringent gun laws, especially tighter bans on assault weapons. The governor’s call for stronger restrictions on access to these weapons comes in the wake of the tragic loss of lives in the massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school last month.
Turning to the economic issues, the governor also lent his support in favor of raising the state’s minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $8.75. It is estimated that this would benefit more than one million residents in the state, including over 350,000 New York City workers who currently make less than the proposed new minimum wage. Workers making the current minimum wage earn about $15,080 a year. The federal poverty threshold for a family of three is $17,916. As Governor Cuomo said, “This does not add up. An increase is right, it is fair, and it’s long overdue.”
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia now have higher minimum wages than New York State. Adjusted for inflation, the value of the current state and federal minimum wage is actually lower than the minimum wage in 1980. The minimum wage of $3.10 in 1980 would be worth roughly $8.70 today.
New Yorkers have voiced strong and wide support for raising the state minimum wage. According to our Unheard Third poll – the only survey of low-income opinion in the nation - 88 percent of New Yorkers favor an increase to $8.50 an hour, with adjustments each year for inflation. Seventy-eight percent strongly support raising it, a stance that cuts across income levels and party affiliations.
We applaud the governor’s plan to increase the state’s minimum wage. When the economy collapsed during the latest recession, the government stepped in to bail out the financial institutions that were largely responsible for the crisis. However, those among the hardest hit by the recession, low-wage workers with reduced hours and job insecurity, are still waiting for a little help. New Yorkers strongly agree that it’s time to give the working poor a raise.
The governor also took a stand against the current “stop and frisk” policy of the New York Police Department which often leads to arrests for minute levels of marijuana. Saying “it must end,” the governor rightly points out that these arrests often stigmatize young men of color, leaving them with a permanent record that affects their chances for a decent job, good housing, and even the right to vote.
Finally, the governor proposed a $1 billion state fund to construct 14,000 units of affordable housing over the next five years. And in proposing an equality act for women, he included a provision to end landlord discrimination against Section 8 housing voucher holders. Both of these are excellent ideas.