New York's minimum wage will rise from $8 to $8.75 an hour on Wednesday, giving a boost in pay to some 700,000 workers.
The state is one of several raising its minimum pay rate in the new year, with increases taking effect Jan. 1 in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Florida and other states.
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New York lawmakers approved the increase in 2013 as part of a series of steps to bring the wage to $9 on Dec. 31, 2015.
It could go up even higher if lawmakers pass another increase in the 2015 legislative session. Supporters of a higher minimum wage are calling for a $10.10-per-hour minimum and want to give cities like New York the authority to raise it even more.
But opponents say another wage hike could backfire by increasing labor costs and prompting employers to cut jobs.
Further increases stalled in the Legislature last year when they ran into opposition from Republicans in the state Senate. The GOP picked up two additional Senate seats in the fall election, but supporters of a higher minimum wage picked up a valuable ally in Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who agreed to support a higher minimum during his successful re-election campaign.
"There's no doubt we'll have the debate," said Ken Pokalsky, vice president at the Business Council of New York State, a group that endorsed Cuomo but opposes minimum wage increases. "Minimum wage increases really don't do what people want them to do. We disagree with the notion that the way to produce better-paying jobs is to pass a law requiring people to pay more than what the market would suggest."
To Arecelly Cantos, however, a higher minimum wage could allow her to work fewer hours, get a better apartment or worry less about how she will pay the bills. The 27-year-old Queens resident currently works two customer service jobs to make ends meet.
The increase to $8.75, she said, is "better than nothing."
"New York has one of the highest costs of living in the whole country, but with such a low wage it's very difficult to get by," she told The Associated Press through a Spanish-English translator. "I have to work all the time. I don't have days off. It affects my life."
Cuomo's administration is also studying whether to raise the minimum wage for servers, busboys and other tipped workers who may be paid less than the minimum wage as long as their tips make up the difference. A state wage board is expected to issue a recommendation before Cuomo's labor commissioner makes a decision in February.