After Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his annual State of the State address one week ago, one of several major initiatives he outlined – increasing the state minimum wage – has received mixed reviews so far in Port Jefferson.
To some, the proposed bump from $7.25 to $8.75 is too much, erasing employers' opportunity to incentivize higher wages for high-performing employees. To others, it's a logical increase in one of the most expensive places to live in the nation.
To others, it's just that: a proposal that needs to be discussed further before reaching a definite conclusion.
While state Sen. Ken LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, voted in favor of the state's last minimum wage increase, spokesman Drew Biondo said via email that "the devil is in the details," and LaValle would withhold further comment until a concrete plan is put on the table.
"Senator LaValle has not seen a bill yet and will have to weigh how increasing the minimum wage would impact our small businesses and farmers (Suffolk is the largest agricultural producer in the state), as well as unintended consequences of pushing aid recipients into a higher income bracket and thus making them ineligible for certain benefits that they currently receive."
Mike Sfyrakis, who opened up the pizza shop It's All Greek to Me just over a year ago, said he didn't see the harm in increasing wages. He said it would affect him most with summer help, which other local proprietors mentioned, but the result wouldn't be too damaging and considering how far a dollar goes, isn't entirely unfair.
"What's $8 today?" he asked. "It depends on what people are doing for it. So I think it's fair."
Linda McLoone, manager at Thomas Kinkade Gallery, said any increase would not affect her shop, and many other businesses in the village reported likewise, as many operations are run by the owners themselves, or by managers getting paid more than minimum wage.
But she said she supported an increase.
"You can't live on minimum wage," she said.
For Mary Joy Pipe, who has owned The East End Shirt Company for the past 34 years, increasing the wage scale "certainly cuts what I need to do as a business owner."
Pipe said that for those who might come in as minimum wage employees, luring higher wages with better work is critical to offering quality customer service.
"If a newbie comes in and is earning $8.75, what are you going to do now with experienced employees? When it's slow, I'm not even getting paid that per hour," she said. "Is that dollar amount too much to pay someone? No. But as a starting hourly wage, yeah, it ends up being that. It starts out as a bar that's high."