By Enza Macherone
In Albany, state legislators are debating a minimum wage increase that would raise New York State’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $9, gradually over two to three years.
The raise would also include automatic increases to combat inflation. On Tuesday, March 5, the State Assembly voted to pass the bill, sending it over to the State Senate for debate and approval.
The Democratic majority led the wage raise, which is part of measure 101-44.
In the Senate, Republicans are working to pass a series of tax cuts for businesses, totaling over two billion dollars in cuts. They hope this measure will encourage businesses to hire more workers, thus stimulating the economy if a greater number of people have more money to spend.
Union Economics Professor Lewis Davis explained how the economy of New York would be affected if the minimum wage raise passed by the State Senate.
“It will raise the income of lower income workers, but it may also reduce the number of jobs available as well as the growth rate of new jobs,” he said. This is due to the economic principle that employers can only spend so much on workers. If they are paying for benefits and mandated taxes, an increase in the minimum wage would stretch their budgets even tighter.
With tighter budgets, employers may be reluctant to hire more workers. However, Davis said that in his experience, he has seen that small rises in minimum wage don’t cause drastic negative effects to the economy negatively in the long run.
With a large work study program, many Union students now wonder what this means for their jobs. Students rely on their work study jobs to pay for tuition, books and other necessary living expenses. As part of their financial aid package, students can earn $1,500 yearly by working 6.5 hours per week, and up to $2,000 by working nine hours a week, depending on the amount of aid they were awarded.
Senior Director of Financial Services Judy Manchester said that discussions are currently under way about how the minimum wage, if it were raised, would affect student work study programs. “Students will most likely earn the same amount of work study aid, but work fewer hours to make up the difference,” she said.
In regards to regular employees of the college, Manchester said that very few employees make minimum wage, and that how they will be affected is still under discussion.
However, she said, “There will be an impact on the budget regardless of the amount that the minimum wage is raised.”
For now, it is hard to tell exactly how the budget will be affected until the bill is passed and an exact amount and time span to raise the minimum wage is determined.
For students, however, not much will change. They will still earn the same amount, but just work fewer hours.
Many students may take advantage of this possible shortening of work study hours by supplementing their income with a part-time job off campus.