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Cuomo plans big push for minimum wage hike

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Governor Cuomo won’t be giving his State of the State speech for another week, but he has already begun laying out his 2016 agenda. On Monday he held a rally to raise the minimum wage for all New York workers to $15 an hour.

Cuomo has already begun a piecemeal attempt to increase the minimum wage, through  executive actions to phase in an increase for state workers and fast food workers to $15 an hour over the next several years.

But, he told an enthusiastic audience of labor union members at a rally that he will try once again to get the legislature to pass a law mandating the $15 an hour phase in for all low wage workers. He says this time, though, it will become a political campaign, with repercussions at the polls.

“We’re going to knock on doors, we’re going to make phone calls,” said Cuomo who said nearly 3 million New Yorkers would benefit from the bill.

“We’re going to make sure those workers in your district know who voted for them, who’s with them, who’s against them.”

Republicans in the State Senate have opposed the measure in the past. Business groups say small employers can’t afford the increase.

Cuomo also announced that the lowest paid workers in State University of New York system, including student workers, will see their wages increased to $15 an hour.  28,000 SUNY employees will see their pay go up.

The governor was joined by the US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez,  actor Steve Buscemi and  state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The Mayor of the City of New York, Democrat Bill deBlasio, who supports progressive issues, was not at the event. The governor and mayor have been openly feuding for months. 

The governor, over the weekend, also appeared to try to embarrass the mayor, when he issued an executive order to  require that all homeless people in New York be taken to a shelter when the temperature drops below freezing.  Some homeless people objected, saying shelters aren’t safe, and a spokeswoman for deBlasio questioned whether the homeless could be forced into shelters without a state law.

Cuomo continued to implicitly criticize deBlasio and New York City’s governance at the rally..

“It’s not right to have a shelter system that is so dirty and unsafe that people have to stay on the street corner,” Cuomo said.

Afterward, Cuomo denied that he was impugning the mayor or deBlasio’s policies, saying it’s the media who is fanning the flames.

“You want to personalize everything,” he told a reporter.

Cuomo is expected to highlight his other plans for the New Year, including ethics reform, in the days leading up to his January 13th speech.  In 2015 both leaders of the legislature were convicted of multiple counts of corruption. 

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.