Governor Andrew Cuomo's push for a $15 an hour minimum wage could leave some workers out. Thousands of contracted employees rely on state funding, and as state house reporter Zack Fink explains, there is currently no money in the budget to support an increase for them. Zack Fink filed the following report.
At HeartShare in Brooklyn, daycare services are provided for people with developmental disabilities. The staff here is paid through state money, although they are contracted employees, not state workers.
Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed state budget provides no funding to support a $15-an-hour minimum wage for these workers.
"The governor proposes to raise the minimum wage, but not to fund it," said Winifred Schiff of the Interagency Council. "Our providers are completely dependent on Medicaid, so it's half federal and half state."
The state's share would be $135 million just this year.
Cuomo has been touring around the state in an RV promoting his $15-an-hour minimum wage proposal. He was recently asked what it will be mean for contracted employees.
"For many companies that do business with the state, it would mean less profit. So those companies, I don't have much sympathy for," Cuomo said. "But for companies that would feel a financial strain, that is something we can talk about."
Cuomo's minimum wage proposal still needs to get through the Republican-controlled state Senate, and some say $15 is an arbitrary number.
"I don't think it should be approved any way except the way we have been doing it for the last 20 years since I've been here. And that is taking a look at the cost of living, taking a look at inflation and coming up with a number. Not a political number," said state Sen. John DiFrancisco of Syracuse.
But even Republicans acknowledge that if there were to be an increase, adjustments would be needed within the state budget to make sure everyone can receive the benefits. And if that isn't done, vital programs could be lost.
"If there is an increase that is not funded, it will do serious damage to agencies like HeartShare," said Linda Tempel of HeartShare Human Services. "We do not have cash reserves to basically do an unguarded mandate, so it would literally mean putting programs out of business."
Cuomo said last week he would not hold up the state budget over the minimum wage issue, but insiders say because of some of these outstanding concerns, any increase would have to get done as part of the budget being adopted. The budget is due April 1.