March 30, 2013
Minimum wage hike criticized
Local businesses, employees lukewarm about rise from $7.25 to $9
Business owners and some of their employees wrote off a state minimum wage increase approved Thursday as being tough on small businesses, not being a meaningful change to workers and adding to the tax burden.
The hourly wage will be increased over a three-year period from $7.25 to $9 by 2016. It will rise to $8 by the end of the year and increase to $8.75 by the end of 2014 before hitting $9 at the end of 2015.
At Mark’s Pizzeria on Main Street in Cortland, management is looking to minimize the cost of a higher minimum wage by limiting hours, said manager Mitchell Seweryn, of Cortland.
The pizzeria might also hire one more worker to keep from offering overtime, which Seweryn, 23, said would be “through the roof.”
About 90 percent of the shop’s 20 workers make minimum wage, he said.
In the end, workers will make the same amount of money despite the higher wage because individual workers will have fewer hours, he said.
“I don’t really see it changing that much,” Seweryn said.
Five of the employees are full-time and the rest are part-time, Seweryn said.
“It’s a small amount of money, but I’m also an unskilled worker,” said Casey Knutson, a junior at SUNY Cortland majoring in International Studies, who was working at Indulge bakery on Main Street in Cortland.
“It’s not an insufficient amount of money,” Knutson said, adding that at Indulge the longer she stays with the bakery the more she will be paid.
Knutson makes $7.25 an hour, which she said is fair as she has only been working at Indulge for two months.
The increase in minimum wage will hurt small businesses, which will have to increase prices to offset the higher wages, the 20-year-old said. Price increases could lead to fewer customers, including college students who have tight budgets, she said.
“So it’ll actually be a loss in profits,” said Knutson, a Long Island native.
Knutson also took issue with the 75 cent increase in wages that will occur at year’s end.
“I think that’s an irrational jump,” she said, adding a 25 cent increase would make more sense.
Taxes credits will be used to offset the higher wages’ cost for part-time, student workers between 16 and 19 years old to employers.
Malin Belknap, who works full-time at Indulge on Main Street for $7.50 an hour and works a second job at Action Sports on Main Street for $7.50, thought the increase would help her, but noted that it will hurt small businesses.
“I think a small increase will help (workers) in general,” said Belknap, 18, from behind the counter at Indulge, adding that she works very hard.
Belknap, a Homer High School graduate, was not concerned about the price of goods increasing as minimum wage increases.
“I think prices are already pretty high,” said Belknap, who lives with her parents in Homer. “I don’t think we’ll see an increase right away.”
Patricia Jordan, owner of Shipwreck Amusement Center, was against the increased wage as well, even though her workers at the Route 13, Cortlandville, miniature golf course, bounce house and paintball center all make more than minimum wage now.
Jordan characterized the wage subsidy plan as “just another sneaky way to get taxes,” noting that taxpayers, not businesses, will pay for the higher payroll costs.
“And I’m one of those (taxpayers), too,” she said.
Jordan also thought the hike in minimum wage was unfair to her employees who worked their way up to a higher pay rate over time, adding that she cannot afford to pay the workers more than the increased minimum wage.
Jordan, 57, also worried about inflation following the pay raise.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” she said. “It pumps everything up.”
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