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St. Lawrence County legislators support minimum wage increase

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CANTON — A majority of St. Lawrence County legislators are in favor of raising the state’s minimum wage as proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Legislator Sallie A. Brothers, D-Norfolk, recently offered a resolution of support for the proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 per hour.

“I support it completely,” she said. “These people are facing increased expenses related to fuel, gas and food for their families. I would like to see people in our county getting a little more money and be able to pay the bills.”

Mrs. Brothers’s resolution was approved 9-4 at a legislative committee meeting, with Republicans Mark H. Akins, Lisbon; Joseph R. Lightfoot, Ogdensburg; Alex A. MacKinnon, Fowler, and Daniel F. Parker, Potsdam, opposed.

At the suggestion of Mr. Parker, legislators agreed to remove language from the resolution that touted the economic benefits of raising the minimum wage and made claims of job growth that some found questionable.

Republicans opposed to the increase did not argue that minimum wage workers do not deserve a raise, but worried that the percentage increase is too high and could have the unintended consequence of raising prices as employers pass along their costs.

“I just don’t think this is the time to do it given the economic fix we’re in,” Mr. Lightfoot said. “I don’t see where this is the answer.”

Legislator Donald A. Peck, R-Gouverneur, said that he had worried as well about the percentage increase proposed by Gov. Cuomo but that several Gouverneur businesses told him they already were paying hourly salaries above the minimum wage, ranging from $8.35 to $8.50.

Job losses often threatened by businesses facing increases in the minimum wage rarely happen, said Legislator Stephen M. Putman, D-Canton.

People earning minimum wage tend to spend every penny they earn, which pumps more money into the economy, he said.

“The lowest paid workers in New York state need this,” Legislator Frederick S. Morrill, D-DeKalb Junction, said.

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