California Set to Become First State With $15 Minimum Wage, New York May Be Next

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Following negotiations that did not include the state’s business community, California lawmakers and union leaders have reached a deal to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour for all businesses by 2023. Gov. Jerry Brown, who had opposed a $15 per hour minimum wage, could make a formal announcement about the agreement as soon as Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Under the deal, California’s minimum wage would increase from $10 per hour to $10.50 per hour on January 1, 2017, the Times noted. The minimum would increase to $11 in 2018, and then increases of $1 per year would follow through 2022. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have an extra year to comply, giving them until 2023 to raise minimum wage workers to $15 per hour. The article noted that increases in the future would be tied to inflation, though the governor would be able to temporarily block an increase due to an economic downturn.

Before union-sponsored wage-increase initiatives recently qualified to be on the November ballot, Gov. Brown had been opposed to the $15 per hour minimum wage. In January, he stated that there would be a $4-billion-a-year increase in state budget expenses if public-sector care workers had their wages increased to $15 an hour, the article noted.  

Business groups were not consulted on the wage increase, the Times noted, and were “relegated to the sidelines.” However, given the looming ballot initiative, the governor decided to negotiate a gradual increase more in tune with his philosophy.

Meanwhile, in New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is hoping that a minimum wage increase can be passed by the state’s April 1 budget deadline. Until recently, Gov. Cuomo had been adamant about moving to a $15 per hour minimum wage statewide; however, according to some media reports, he is now considering a lower minimum wage for upstate New York, perhaps $12.50 or $13 per hour, and an increase to $15 per hour for downstate New York (which includes New York City and surrounding counties).

While Cuomo would not confirm these reports, he did stress that his plan already calls for a longer phase-in to $15 per hour for regions outside New York City and he acknowledged that talks regarding the wage increase have focused on treating upstate differently than downstate, as reported by

“Some states have three rates, some states have even more,” Cuomo told WRVO. “So, we anticipate a different rate to get to $15 and obviously there’s a variety of ways that you can get there.”