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Cuomo Calls Minimum Wage Plan a 'Non-Starter' in Latest Salvo Against Mayor

By Jeff Mays | February 4, 2015 8:12am
 Gov. Andrew Cuomo shot down a signature proposal Mayor Bill de Blasio issued to address rising inequality in his State of the City address Tuesday, saying that a minimum wage of $13 per hour was a "non-starter" in Albany.
De Blasio versus Cuomo
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GRAMERCY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo shot down a signature proposal in Mayor Bill de Blasio's State of the City address Tuesday, saying that a minimum wage of $13 per hour was a "non-starter" for Albany — the latest in a series of public jockeying between the two executives.

Cuomo also tried Tuesday to shoot down de Blasio's plan to build more than 11,000 units of affordable housing over Sunnyside Yards, despite the fact that the city has the air rights for a portion of the area.

The comments led one observer to say the men were "shooting across one another's bow." During de Blasio's first year in office, he and Cuomo have been at odds on issues ranging from police unions to Ebola.

Cuomo's spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa said the governor agrees that the minimum wage should be raised — just not as high as de Blasio would like.

"While we believe the State Legislature will view an increase to more than $13 as a non-starter, we will continue to push for the aggressive proposal the Governor outlined last month that also accounts for the higher cost of living that workers experience in New York City," DeRosa said in a statement.

De Blasio called for a $13 minimum wage that would be indexed to inflation and rise to $15 by 2019.

Cuomo, in his recent State of the State address, proposed a minimum wage of $11.50 for New York City and $10.50 for the rest of the state by the end of 2016.

"This country never guaranteed success but it guaranteed opportunity and that promise is slipping away," Cuomo said in his speech.

City officials had no comment about Cuomo's dismissal of de Blasio's minimum wage proposal but it is not the first time the two men have failed to agree on major public policy issues.

When de Blasio proposed funding universal pre-K with a tax on the wealthy, Cuomo introduced a plan to fund universal pre-K with state funds.

When New York was dealing with its first cases of Ebola, Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie implemented a 21 day quarantine at area airports for some travellers. The day before, Cuomo and de Blasio appeared at a press conference urging calm.

Cuomo also interjected himself into the rift between de Blasio and the city's police unions following the shooting deaths of two police officers against the mayor's wishes.

Just last week, de Blasio said the city received only 15 minutes warning from the state before Cuomo made the decision to shut down the subway due to an impending snow storm.

And, even Tuesday, Cuomo contradicted another de Blasio proposal to build affordable housing on the Sunnyside Yards in Queens.

“The MTA uses Sunnyside Yards as an important facility for our transportation system, and it is not available for any other use in the near term," said DeRosa who added that the MTA was studying the site from a "long term planning perspective.”

City officials contradicted that statement, saying that 180 of the 200 acres at the site are not under complete state control and that they have been speaking with the Metropolitan Tranportation Authority, which is controlled by the governor, about the site since November.

De Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell said the city was in the middle of an "exhaustive process" to redevelop the yards with "local stakeholders."

"It's unusual that you have a Democratic mayor and a Democratic governor and they don't see eye to eye on a lot of key policy issues," said political consultant Basil Smikle Jr.

Although Cuomo is more moderate and de Blasio has positioned himself as the face of progressive politics, both have proposed similar ideas, said Smikle.

"But there is a question of who's actually going to get it done. There is frustration from the governor that the mayor is at times going too far ahead of him," said Smikle.

"Normally there is some intergovernmental function that should work this out before it becomes public but that's not happening and the two principals don't appear to speak one another," he added. "Instead, they are shooting across one another's bow."

Paul Sonn, general counsel for the National Employment Law Project said Cuomo's minimum wage proposal is out of step with what most other cities with high costs of living are proposing.

Seattle and San Francisco have $15 minimum wages while Chicago's is $13.

"Anything is progress but it seems like economically comparable cities are raising their minimum wages to the $13 to $15 levels," said Sonn. "That's where New York needs to be."

De Blasio may not have to abide by Cuomo's minimum wage limits with the election of new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, whom sources say the mayor lobbied for behind the scenes.

"Hopefully the Assembly, now under new leadership, will push for a higher minimum wage," said Sonn.