Lawmakers beat Pataki veto, raise N.Y. minimum wage

(AP) – New York state’s hourly minimum wage will increase from the current $5.15 to $7.15 following state Senate action Monday that completed an override of Gov. George Pataki’s veto.

The measure, to be carried out in three phases, will push the minimum wage to $6 an hour on Jan. 1, 2005; to $6.75 on Jan. 1, 2006, and $7.15 on Jan. 1, 2007.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted to defy the Republican governor 51-7. A two-thirds vote is needed to override a gubernatorial veto in the 61-member Senate.

Pataki argued that raising the wage would put New York businesses at a “distinct competitive disadvantage” with businesses in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where the minimum wage is $5.15.

The Democrat-dominated state Assembly voted in August to override Pataki’s veto.

“The increase will help the working families at the lowest income levels make ends meet, without putting an undue burden on small businesses and the economy, while it helps the working poor realize the value and dignity of hard work,” said Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

The override is “akin to voting for a $2.8 billion tax hike on small businesses,” said Mark Alesse, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. He explained that is the cost of giving 691,000 minimum wage workers a $4,100 annual pay raise.

“There are better ways to do this with far less damage to small businesses and the economy,” he said.

Bruno said 12 other states and the District of Columbia have raised the state minimum wage above $5.15 an hour since New York last raised the rate in 1999. Bruno said he preferred the federal minimum wage be raised so states didn’t face a potential wage disparity.

“We were hoping that the federal government would act. They have not acted. I hope they will act next year,” Bruno said.

The bipartisan vote provides “a commensurate salary for the value of the work that is performed,” said Senate Minority Leader David Paterson, a Manhattan Democrat. “Our motives are to protect those working men and women,” said Sen. Nicholas Spano, a Westchester Republican and co-sponsor of the bill.

“Social justice is a necessary element of our government” said Sen. Olga Mendez, a Republican representing parts of Manhattan and the South Bronx.

The legislation also provides for a proportional increase in the hourly minimum wage, from the current $3.30 to $4.60, for workers like waitresses and bartenders who are eligible for tips.