Campaign 2010

Jun 28, 2006

Syracuse Post-Standard - Democrats get set for minimum wage war

DCCC Press

Jun 28, 2006

Syracuse Post-Standard - Democrats get set for minimum wage war

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

By Peter Lyman

Washington bureau

Democrats are banking on a basic dollars-and-cents issue as they try to wrest control of Congress from Republicans, and Central New York is shaping up as a battleground.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, talked with reporters Tuesday to boost the campaign of Oneida County District Attorney Michael Arcuri, the Democrat who is seeking to replace retiring Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-New Hartford, in New York's 24th District.

The topic of the day was the federal minimum wage, which Democrats want to raise to $7.25 from the current $5.15. Emanuel blasted Arcuri's Republican opponent, state Sen. Raymond Meier of Western, for being one of seven state senators to oppose an increase in New York's minimum wage two years ago

Meanwhile, New York's two senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer, held a press conference with other Democratic senators in the Capitol Tuesday to boost a bill in the Senate that would link increases in the minimum wage to congressional salaries.

And last week, the DCCC accused Rep. James Walsh, R-Onondaga, of flip-flopping on the minimum wage, first voting in favor of one amendment to raise it, then voting against a similar amendment. One of the Democrats vying to oppose Walsh in November, Dan Maffei of DeWitt, echoed the DCCC charge.

The federal minimum wage has not been raised in nine years. Meanwhile, congressional salaries have gone up more than $30,000, Arcuri said.

"It's grossly unfair," Arcuri said. "How can you support a family on minimum wage?"

Emanuel said the Democrats' proposed minimum wage increase would directly benefit 10percent of the workers in the 24th District, and Democrats will continue to push hard on the campaign trail and in Congress to get it done.

"It would help people work for a living and not work to stay in poverty," he said.

John Konkus, Meier's campaign manager, said Meier did indeed vote against the legislation that raised New York's minimum wage incrementally from $5.15 to $7.15 by Jan. 1, 2007. Meier was likely right in his prediction that the "action would drive business out of New York state," Konkus said.

Konkus characterized the minimum wage as a "dead issue" in the 24th District. Since Meier became a candidate, not one potential constituent has brought up the minimum wage, he said. They are talking instead about taxes, farm and small business issues and family values, Konkus said.

He said it would be "putting the cart before the horse" for Meier to declare how he would vote on minimum wage legislation as a member of the House. Meier would have to study the legislation before taking a position, Konkus said.

The Walsh votes criticized by the DCCC took place earlier this month. They were not floor votes, but amendments offered in the House Appropriations Committee to two 2007 spending bills. He voted for one and not the other.

"Will the real Jim Walsh please stand up?" a DCCC press release demanded.

Walsh said he voted for the first amendment because it was attached to the spending bill for the Labor Department, which is where it belongs.

"It's legislative mischief to add it to every single bill," he said. "My position on the minimum wage is well established."

Walsh is a cosponsor of a bill introduced last year by Boehlert that would raise the federal minimum wage to $7.15 by Jan. 1, 2007. It was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce and has not advanced. Last week, House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, indicated a minimum wage bill would reach the House floor this year.

"We need to have a vote on this . . . up or down," Walsh said.