Gov. Andrew Cuomo must recognize the needs of both individuals and small businesses as he seeks to increase the minimum wage

An investment in equality


Many students at UB understand the challenges that accompany working at a job that pays minimum wage – whether they’re employed by the university or work off-campus – and receiving paychecks don’t amount to much when positions pay $8.75 an hour.

So in that regard, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign to raise the minimum wage in New York State comes as welcome news.

Currently, the minimum wage is set to increase to $9 an hour at the end of this year, and Cuomo is seeking to raise it even higher to $10.50 by the end of 2016.

Raising wages for employees being paid by the hour is undoubtedly necessary and a critical step in improving economic equality in the state.

Working for just $8.75 an hour – and taking home less than that after taxes – is not just demoralizing, but also unaffordable. Even with an increased wage of $9, employees working full-time make only $18,000 a year.

That’s far too little to survive while paying off student loans, to make ends meet and pay college tuition or just to support a family.

It’s necessary to protect and fight for those who are often underrepresented – Cuomo’s campaign shows he cares about New Yorkers who are currently struggling to simply pay the bills, much less lift themselves out of poverty.

The governor’s proposed wage increase would positively impact the over 594,000 minimum wage employees in the state, and boost more than 100,000 New Yorkers above the poverty line.

Clearly, Cuomo is right to make this issue a priority, even if it makes him a target of criticism.

Not surprisingly, there is plenty of opposition to this proposal, and some of the concerns are justified.

Even though it’s easy to support the minimum wage increase – it helps individuals who work hard and deserve more money – raising wages does come with downsides that are necessary to consider.

A higher minimum wage helps individuals, but also has the potential to hurt small businesses.

For a state trying to encourage small business growth – multiple statewide programs offer grants and tax incentives to small businesses – it’s problematic to enact a proposal that will ultimately make it more difficult for these establishments to survive.

Raising the wages small businesses pay their employees increases the burden on those businesses, which won’t necessarily see any increase in profits from the wage increase – only an increase in costs.

Accordingly, moderation is a necessity – Cuomo should not insist on moving too quickly with the wage increase, and be willing to compromise on a lower wage.

Additionally, the state should develop programs to further assist struggling businesses, and improve the state’s economic climate for such establishments, to ensure that businesses don’t fail as a result of the wage increase – and that additional new businesses can continue to set up shop.

After all, an increased wage can only help individuals who are employed, and small businesses are an important combatant against unemployment.

In the fight for economic equality, moderation is key. Small businesses must be protected, but individuals deserve higher pay, too.

Cuomo’s campaign is admirable, and his determination impressive, but now he must demonstrate the ability to compromise as well.