As budget negotiations enter the final critical stage, with all signs pointing to an early finish, New York’s small businesses have every reason to watch closely. While there are aspects in both the Governor and Senate’s budget proposals which, in varying degrees, are helpful to employers, there is that rather large elephant in the room.
There is still question as to whether minimum wage will be pulled from the final budget agreement. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly clear that a blatant disregard of fact by many involved is reaching new and unpredictable heights. And this point alone is a significant change.
Consider that in the last 7 days, two reports have been issued that paint anything but a rosy economic picture for New York. Frankly, they highlight economic reality. Yesterday showed us the new unemployment figures and late last week came a jobs report. There was also a poll conducted by Marist which showed a majority of New Yorkers think the economy is stagnant at best.
Stagnant economy, unemployment increases across the board, and outside of New York City, flat-lined job creation. And Albany still wants to increase labor costs more than 20% on small business. Small businesses which account for 63% of jobs in New York Small businesses which are struggling significantly in this state.
Yesterday, Brian Sampson of Unshackle Upstate and I issued a joint statement which should serve as a warning to the Governor and legislative leaders. The entire minimum wage debate has centered on a few points. The economic reality of New York, the need for regulatory reform/cost reductions for business and the assumed “throw-away” on the push to index. The last week or two has shown a willingness by the proponents, including electeds, to ignore the first two points and start to push aggressively or accept the premise of the third.
NFIB has been a good surrogate for Governor Cuomo on issues where we have agreed - pension reform, the property tax cap, etc. Indexing minimum wage is not the balanced and equitable approach that the business community has seen from his administration. Agreeing to an indexed minimum wage increase will be a drastic change of course and will have lasting consequences moving forward.
The issue of minimum wage has certainly become a litmus test for NFIB and Albany. Will it happen? What will it look like? Will serious offsets for small business be included?
Those three questions have broad impact. For small business, I hope reality sinks in for the Governor and lawmakers. High noon indeed.