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Governor Cuomo speaks out about minimum wage

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Albany/HV: Governor Cuomo speaks out about minimum wage
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Governor Cuomo is speaking out for the first time on the battle over minimum wage in New York state since President Obama's State of the Union address last week. During his address, the President proposed raising the federal minimum wage. In January, Cuomo proposed increasing New York's minimum wage during his State of the State. Capital Tonight's Liz Benjamin has the story.

STATWIDE -- "Minimum wage because if you work full-time you shouldn’t be below the poverty rate. If you work full-time you shouldn’t be poor, and if you work full-time you shouldn’t have to choose between eating and paying your rent. That’s why we have to raise the minimum wage," said Governor Cuomo.

Governor Cuomo spoke at a reception on the final night of a three-day conference held by black and Latino elected officials in Albany this week. His remarks were well received, as a minimum wage hike is a key issue this year for lawmakers of color.

But speaking with reporters just before he took the stage, Cuomo was more circumspect.

He admitted President Obama’s call during last week’s State of the Union address to bump the national minimum wage to $9.00 per hour, $0.25 cents more than the governor himself has proposed here in New York had complicated the debate.

“The President came out and said that he is proposing a minimum wage at $9.00. We now have to justify the federal law and the possibility and probably that it passes as a state law. So that’s a little more complex, and we’re in the process of working through now," said Governor Cuomo.

Obama also called for indexing future minimum wage increases to the rate of inflation, something liberal advocates, as well as Democrats in the Senate and Assembly also want Cuomo to do, too. So far, he has not heeded that call.

The Assembly Democrats have already amended their minimum wage bill to mirror the president's proposal. But the Senate Republicans, already reluctant to approve the increase, have used Obama's plan as political cover, arguing New York should not bother acting if the federal government intends to do so.

Cuomo isn't necessarily buying that. "That assumes it happens federally, and if it actually passed federally at $9.00, they would have a point. But there’s a long way between here and there," said Governor Cuomo.

Cuomo did suggest Sunday that he might be willing to take the minimum wage hike out of his proposed budget, which might make it easier for the Republicans to reject. But he also insisted he believes there will be a deal before the session ends in June.

US Senator Chuck Schumer, who was on hand for Cuomo's speech, said the outlook for passing Obama's minimum wage plan is "promising," but that's not a reason for New York to wait to act on its own.

"I think each should go on their own and do the best they can. I don’t think one complicates the other in any way at all. I think the president was right to call for it nationally, and I think the New York State is right to go forward on its side," said Senator Schumer.

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