FILE - NY Jessica Ramos 6-19-2019

New York Sen. Jessica Ramos, D-East Elmhurst, speaks June 19, 2019, in the Senate Chamber at the state Capitol in Albany, N.Y.

(The Center Square) – The minimum wage pay bumps that were implemented statewide across New York in the beginning of 2020 could occur annually into perpetuity if a Queens legislator’s recently introduced bill moves forward.

Democrat state Sen. Jessica Ramos on Nov. 9 introduced Senate Bill 9085, which calls for annual minimum wage increases, based on the rate of inflation within a previous 365-day period.

In its existing draft, S9085 calls for amending state statute by tasking the labor commissioner to annually publish a minimum wage rate, based on a calculation sized up with the rate of inflation.

In the proposal, minimum wages could increase up to 3.5 percent, depending on positive inflationary statistics.

In her sponsor memo, Ramos, who represents the New York City neighborhood of East Elmhurst, said she believes her proposal will assist recipients – including members of minority communities.

“Historically, yearly gains in inflation have decreased the value of the minimum wage, chipping away at workers’ purchasing power and leading to hardship for many,” Ramos wrote. “Across the state, minimum-wage workers are disproportionately women and people of color – groups which also face significant barriers to advancement.”

In her statement on S9085, Ramos said the legislation also is aimed at helping minimum-wage earners meet their most basic needs.

“Each year that inflation increases and wages at the bottom do not, workers in the lowest-paying positions struggle to pay bills, feed their families and access transportation,” Ramos wrote.

While previous bills addressing minimum wages have successfully passed through both chambers of the New York state legislature in the past, Ramos’ proposal also takes a new approach – a base figure across the entire state.

New York historically has adopted a sliding minimum wage scale, with differing rates between urban and rural areas – the argument being the cost of living in New York City is higher than sparsely populated portions of the state.

As of Dec. 31, the state’s minimum wage was set at $15 per hour for most jobs within New York City’s boroughs. In other outlying areas – including Long Island and Westchester County – the state’s current minimum wage is set at $13 per hour.

Elsewhere in the state, the minimum wage is set at $11.80 per hour, but is on a course to inch higher on a sliding basis. On Dec. 31, 2020, the minimum wage outside the greater New York City area will increase to $12.50 per hour.

Before the state minimum wage was raised, Republican Assemblyman Will Barclay, who is now the minority leader in that chamber, wrote that business owners in his district were worried that increases to the minimum wage would damage their ability to remain open.

"[T]he majority of those who have contacted me have been small business owners who likely will be the most negatively affected by such a substantial increase," Barclay wrote in an opinion piece. "Indeed, my office sent out a survey to business owners within my district and of the nearly 100 responses we received back, approximately 90% of those opposed the increase. About 64% said that the wage hike would either force them to lay off workers or worse, force them to close their doors."

Ramos’ bill currently is in the hands of the Senate Rules Committee. A hearing on he proposal has yet to be scheduled.

Statistics from the National Conference of State Legislators point to the disparity in minimum wage rates across the U.S.

Connecticut and New Jersey, for example, currently has a minimum wage of $11 per hour, but it is set to increase by $1 annually from 2021 to 2024, before topping out at $15 per hour. Thereafter, increases will be based on the consumer price index.

Other nearby states, including Pennsylvania, have maintained the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour, though Gov. Tom Wolf has made frequent calls to increase it.