ITHACA, NY – The living wage in Tompkins County is $14.34. Should it also become the minimum wage?

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This week, the City of Ithaca’s Common Council and the Tompkins County Legislature will both consider their stance on increasing the minimum wage. Both groups will vote on whether to send a recommendation to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to proceed with his plan to push a state-wide minimum wage of $15.

We’ll bring you more on this story after this week’s sessions. In the meantime, we wanted to poll our readers for their take on the issue. Do you think raising the minimum wage would be a good thing for Tompkins County?

Not sure? Read on after the poll for a cursory analysis of the pros and cons of the proposed wage increase.

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Pros, cons and uncertainties

The idea of raising the minimum wage, even by smaller amounts, has always been a controversial one. Business owners both small and large express concerns that they will have to terminate employees or shut down entirely because of the rising payroll cost, according to an analysis by Forbes.

Some also argue that raising the minimum eliminates incentive. In other words, why would someone want to further their education and work hard to get a “good job” when they can make $15 an hour at an easier, less stressful job.

Related: 3 Ithaca business owners respond to to proposed $14 min. wage

Those on the other side maintain that putting more money in people’s pockets will boost the economy and that business owners will, at worst, break even and thus not have to fire any employees. A 2013 report titled, “Why Does the Minimum Wage Have No Discernable Effect on Employment?,” basically speaks for itself.

They also argue that the current minimum wage – $8.75 in New York – is not sufficient to support a family. The Tompkins County Workers Center says 14 percent of all Ithaca families live below the poverty line – the number jumps to 31 percent when you focus on families with all children under the age of five.

“The bottom line is that in a community with so much prosperity we must no longer accept wages that leave some unable to support themselves or their families,” says a statement from their website.

Related: Should Tompkins businesses support county wide $15/hr min. wage?

Results of the “minimum wage experiment” in cities like Seattle and Los Angeles have offered mixed results. Whether or not one considers the effects of the minimum wage hike in those cities a success seems to depend on what metrics you choose to focus on.

New York Times commentator David Brooks summed up the “minimum wage muddle” this way: “You can’t impose costs on some without trade-offs for others. You can’t intervene in the market without unintended consequences.”

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.