Statewide minimum wage hike starts today

The second in a series of statewide minimum wage increases begins today.

The hourly rate will increase to $10.40 for most workers, with with fast food workers seeing an increase to $11.75. Tipped workers will remain at an hourly wage of $7.50 until 2019, but other workers will see an increase for the next few years until the rate reaches $15 an hour.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo included the wage increase in the 2016 Built To Lead Agenda. The increases were spread out over a few years to give businesses time to adjust.

Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown, said many economic studies have been done that show there will be a loss of entry-level jobs as the wages in New York state increase. Goodell said one report from Empire Center For Public Policy estimated a loss of 200,000 jobs due to the increase.

“I’m very concerned raising the cost of entry-level jobs will highlight the differences in cost between doing business in New York versus other states,” Goodell said on Friday.

One such instance that occurred already in the area is when Carriage House closed and moved to another state. Goodell said the business didn’t shut down, it merely moved from a “high-cost state to a low-cost state.”

However, Goodell said he does sympathize with the working poor and how hard it is to balance a budget on minimum wage. Instead of increasing minimum wage, Goodell said he has advocated for other ways to help, such as increasing the earned income tax credit and focusing on job mentoring and training.

Goodell said the earned income tax credit is targeted to those who need it most, while a minimum wage increase is across the board. Likewise, mentoring and training allows employees the chance to rise in the ranks.

Goodell said he is most concerned about the loss of entry-level jobs. When the wages increase, it makes it “cost effective” for employers to look for alternatives like self-check outs and other automated systems.

County Executive Vince Horrigan said he is concerned about the impact on local businesses, but applauded the efforts of State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, and Goodell for making sure the increase to $15 is phased in over the next few years.

Horrigan said phasing in the increases will be beneficial to businesses as it allows them to adapt.

“In many cases, our employers are paying beyond minimum wage,” he said. “Wages continue to increase in Chautauqua County because we’re continuing to see economic development.”

Todd Tranum, the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce President, expressed his concerns as well.

“The minimum wage increase, new paid family leave requirements and the state’s proposed employee scheduling regulations are concerning to employers in the area,” he said. “Running a business and keeping people employed in and of itself is challenging, additional costs and mandates from New York State make it even more difficult. For example, since 2016 the minimum wage has increased 14.5% and is scheduled to continue to increase through 2021.

“The paid family leave requirements of New York State have taken money out of employee paychecks and have created scheduling challenges for employers in a time when finding employees is difficult. The new employee scheduling regulations that are currently in a public comment period, adds additional costs, paperwork and scheduling challenges to the backs of employers. Additionally, more costs and regulations make New York less competitive with other regions in terms of economic growth.”