IT’S ABOUT KEEPING PEOPLE WORKING
I do not wish to jeopardize the fragile economic recovery in New York State by implementing a 24 percent minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $9.00 per hour. Skyrocketing fuel prices are increasing the cost of doing business, and the compression factor in the minimum wage increase historically leads other employees to seek wage increases as well. Farmers and small business owners throughout the 126th Assembly District clearly state that increasing the minimum wage at this time will result in layoffs and fewer part-time hires, particularly during the summer. The evidence displayed by the well known 2008 Cornell study, clearly showed that when the state last increased the minimum wage, nearly 30,000 jobs were lost, I fear the same fallout this time as well.
While increasing the minimum wage is an issue we must deal with, we should address it once our economic recovery is in full force, rather than just beginning to gather steam. The passage of Assembly Bill A.38A was clearly a case of bad timing, which is why I voted against it.
Another matter of great concern to our economy is Assembly Bill A.5424-A, which I voted against because of the traumatic harm it would do to our state’s natural gas industry. This bill, which has only been voted on in the Assembly and is not being taken up by the Senate, establishes a suspension on the issuance of permits for the drilling of any type of natural gas wells in the state until May 15, 2015. It is important to note that lateral fracking and drilling of high-volume natural gas wells is currently under a moratorium and will remain under that moratorium until the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) completes its study. The Department of Health is also conducting a health effects examination as part of the DEC study that must be completed before any permits can be considered for issuance.
I believe we must wait for the results of the DEC and Health Department study and determine the fate of lateral fracking and high-volume wells at that time. Ensuring the safety of our drinking water is a matter of great concern to me, and I certainly do not want any unsafe techniques to be used and harm our families. Water is our most important natural resource that is essential to our quality of life and impacts everything from our health to the economy; protecting it and our environment should be not be taken lightly.
Assembly Bill A.5424-A, were it to get a Senate sponsor and become law, would strike a crippling blow to the natural gas industry in our state. Natural gas is an immensely vital industry to our upstate economy that employs thousands and is responsible for 35 percent of New York’s energy production. This bill would prevent companies from getting the permits they require to continue extracting natural gas using methods that have already been proven to be safe. Were that to happen, the industry would effectively die and thousands would be put out of work. I cannot in good conscience support a bill that would kill an entire industry, given the fragile state of our economy.
The unfortunate reality is that natural gas extraction is being lumped together in one frame of thought that makes it all appear to be unsafe, which is simply not the case. This particular bill’s language, I believe unintentionally, destroys the whole of the natural gas industry and all the jobs associated with it, and this is something we cannot allow to happen.