MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE VETOED
Gov. George E. Pataki vetoed a bill on July 29 that would have given a pay raise to thousands of New York’s lowest-paid workers by gradually increasing the minimum wage to $7.15 from $5.15 an hour by January 2007. New York would have become one of 13 states with a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum of $5.15. After intense lobbying by the Working Families Party and the state AFL-CIO over the last few years, both houses of the state legislature had passed a minimum wage bill. The bill would have raised the state’s wage floor by $2 per hour over two years. It had a three-step phase-in: $6, $6.75, and $7.15 (from the current $5.15 per hour). For an individual working full-time (2000 hours in a year), it would have meant an additional $4000 annually. The vote was 116-19 in the Assembly, and 51-7 in the Senate. The Working Families Party estimated that approximately 1.2 million people would have benefited from this law, about 15 percent of the workers in the state. Raising the minimum wage would have provided some needed assistance to poorer New Yorkers. A new Economic Policy Institute Snapshot shows that in a typical state the majority share of the benefits of a higher minimum wage flows to low-income working households. In New York, nearly 60 percent of the total minimum wage increase would have gone to households at the bottom of the earnings scale that, taken together, account for only 15 percent of the total wages in the state. Several business groups and the state’s Conservative Party chairman, Michael R. Long, urged the governor to veto the bill, arguing that it would drive up employers’ expenses and could cost the state jobs.
FCC OPPOSE MEDIA CONCENTRATION
Both the U.S. Senate and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals rolled back the FCC’s new rules regarding media ownership. The rules would have allowed greater concentration of media outlets into fewer hands. The rejection by the Senate and the Third Circuit strikes a blow to the FCC and is a victory for advocates of more local control of the airwaves and the media. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a staunch critic of the FCC’s new ownership rules, was able to include an amendment to roll back the new rules in the Defense Appropriations Bill. The amendment passed by unanimous consent.
TAX RELIEF FOR LOW-WAGE WORKERS
City Council’s 2005 budget includes a refundable Earned Income Tax Credit. The credit will provide significant tax relief to low-wage workers in New York. The credit has been introduced into the State Assembly (A. 11719) and into the State Senate (S. 7606-A). The tax credit is a refundable personal income tax credit that has only been available at the federal and state levels. Studies have found that families use their tax credit refunds to meet urgent needs, such as paying rent and utilities, as well as for longer-run measures to improve their lives. The credit amounts by family income levels range from $210 for a family of four with two children earning minimum wage fulltime to $70 for a family of three with one child with wages equal to 150 percent of the poverty line.