Debating the Minimum Wage

By Matt Porter

New York and the United States both have proposals to raise the current minimum wage.

February 15, 2013 Updated Feb 15, 2013 at 7:56 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Proposals from President Barack Obama and New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver have called for the current $7.25 minimum wage to increase to $9.00, a 24 percent increase.

A report from the Fiscal Policy Institute shows that today's minimum wage has not kept up with inflation since it was at its peak in 1970.

The report said to equal the amount of purchasing power minimum wage had in July 1970, the hourly wage would have to equal $11.15 in today's dollars.

Amanda Watson, of Binghamton, used to work three jobs just to get by. All of them near or at the state minimum wage.

"It's crazy with the schedule, you gotta find when to sleep, and then be at work," Watson said.

Now, she's finishing cosmetology school to nab a more high paying job as a hairstylist.

"As for me, I don't think it's possible to live on a 7.25 an hour budget, unless you were living alone," Watson said. "And I'm not, I have a son."

The minimum wage debate began in New York last month when Governor Andrew Cuomo called for an increase to $8.75.

In New York, more than 1.6 million people could benefit from the increased pay.

84 percent of those affected are adults, and nearly half work in the retail and food service industry.

Danielle Hennekens used to own her own restaurant..

Now she helps train others for the industry.

She said getting more money in the hands of wage earners could jump start the economy.

"Like in the business of a restaurant, if people have more money to spend, you're sales are going to be up," Hennekens said. "If you're sales are going to be up, you are going to be able to afford to hire more people."

The Economic Policy Institute agreed pedicting 7,300 new jobs could be created and the gross domestic product in New York could go up by 840 million.

However owner of the Silo Restaurant Gary Kurz in Greene said the wage hike could be the death knell of small businesses including his own.

"We can't afford it, it's impossible for us to do it," Kurz said. "So I think you'll see a lot of small businesses go out of business because they can't afford to pay that kind of a wage."

With business slow, he said it's another tax he can't bear.

"The federal government, the state government, they're all saying they want to balance the budget without new taxes," Kurz said, "And this is definitely a new tax on small business."