Q&A: How will NY's $15 wage work?
Jon Campbell, @JonCampbellGAN 10:23 a.m. EDT April 2, 2016
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a July 22 rally after the New York Wage Board endorsed a proposal to set a $15 minimum wage for workers at fast-food restaurants with 30 or more locations. (Photo: AP)
ALBANY - By now, you've seen the headlines: New York will increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour.
But how quickly will the wage increase take effect? And will it apply upstate, too?
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions:
Q: $15 an hour? When?
A: It depends where you live.
The state's current minimum wage is $9 an hour. That rate will gradually increase at different rates in different areas of the state.
In New York City, it will increase $2 each year: to $11 on the last day of 2016, to $13 on the last day of 2017, and to $15 on the last day of 2018. That's unless the employer has 10 or fewer employees, in which case the annual increase would be $1.50, hitting $15 on Dec. 31, 2019.
In Westchester County and on Long Island, it will be slower: Starting with $10 on Dec. 31, 2016, and increasing $1 each year before hitting $15 on the last day of 2021.
It's more complicated in the rest of the state.
The minimum wage there will increase 70 cents a year, starting with $9.79 on Dec. 31, 2016, until hitting $12.50 on the last day of 2020.
Q: $12.50 upstate? I thought it was supposed to be $15?
A: The wage will increase to $15 upstate — eventually.
Once the minimum wage hits $12.50, the governor's Division of the Budget will be required to come up with a formula for future increases to $15.
So it's not yet known when upstate New York will hit $15. By law, the formula has to be set by Oct. 1, 2021.
Q: Can the wage hike be stopped?
A: Yes, but only outside New York City.
In 2019, the budget division will be required to analyze the economy of each region of the state. Then, the division will issue a report recommending whether there should be a "temporary suspension or delay in any scheduled (minimum wage) increases."
The commissioner of the state Department of Labor would then be able to stop the minimum wage increases if it's determined the economy can't handle it.
The state will have to repeat the process each year until the entire state is at $15 an hour.
The head of the budget division is under Cuomo's control. "To me, that means I will determine it," he told upstate editorial board members in a conference call Friday.
Cuomo said he wouldn't raise the minimum wage at the detriment of the upstate economy.
"We’ve spent billions of dollars. I’ve spent months of life working on the upstate economy over years," he said. "I’m not going to do anything that hurts the upstate economy."
Q: What happens if there's a new governor?
A: It could happen. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who spearheaded the $15 push in this year's state budget negotiations, is up for re-election in 2018.
If, say, a Republican who opposes a minimum-wage hike were to win, the new governor's budget office would be in line to control the economic analysis in 2019 and whether future increases will continue.
But Cuomo said he plans to run and win a third term in 2018.
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