Hearing held in Syracuse to discuss minimum wage increase

State lawmakers listened for hours on Tuesday, as people for and against a proposed minimum wage increase shared their views at Syracuse City Hall.

The minimum wage is now $7.25 per hour. If the proposed law is passed, the minimum wage would increase to $8.50 per hour.

Lawmakers who support the bill say the increase is necessary to keep up with inflation; however, some small business owners say it may be difficult to pay that increase because their budgets are already tight.

Ted Potrikus, executive vice president of the Retail Council of New York state, says he knows many people are struggling, but small businesses are struggling, too.

"For a lot of small business owners, you see the owners really trying to make ends meet," says Potrikus. "They're turning the key every morning, and they're turning on the lights, and they're heating it, and they're paying for insurance. They're paying for the goods and services that they have to turn around and try to make a small profit on."

Potrikus says he's especially concerned about a proposed index. That would guarantee more minimum wage hikes in the future, running parallel with the Consumer Price Index. However, some lawmakers say getting rid of that would be a tough sell.

"We're behind the times right now as far as minimum wage is concerned," says Assemblyman Sam Roberts (D-119th District). "I know it's a big concern with folks because you don't know what tomorrow holds for anyone, but keeping up with inflation and the cost of living is very important."

Rebecca Fuentes, who works as a coordinator for Worker Center in Syracuse, agrees. She says she works with many people earning minimum wage who can barely survive.

"They have to be on public assistance because they cannot make it getting minimum wage or a little bit over minimum wage," says Fuentes. "To raise the minimum wage is so important. It's going to help the workers. It's going to help our community."

The minimum wage was set in 2007 at $7.15 in New York and two years later raised by 10 cents with the federal minimum wage. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and 15 other states have higher rates.

The legislation was introduced by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblyman Keith Wright.

What do you think of the proposed minimum wage increase? Do you think it's necessary? Will it be difficult for small businesses to pay it? Post your comments below.

(Information from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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