Letter to Wage Board on $15 Minimum Wage for Fast-Food Workers

June 26, 2015. James Parrott, deputy director and chief economist, authored this letter to the Fast Food Wage Board to support testimony he previously presented to the Board.

Testimony: The Establishment of a New York City Retirement Security Board

June 23, 2015. James Parrott testified at a New York City Council Committee on Civil Service and Labor on the establishment of a New York City Retirement Security Board. The case for a retirement security fund and program for private-sector workers can be summed up as follows: New York City’s population is aging, many private sector workers do not have employer-provided retirement coverage, and our tax system rewards those who have employer-provided retirement coverage but does relatively little to help those who don’t have such coverage. Since most of those without employer-provided retirement security tend to be from low- and moderate-income households and disproportionately persons of color, our existing and troubling income disparities are further intensified by retirement security disparities.

Addressing the Unintended Consequences of the Property Tax Cap

June 10, 2015. In 2011 New York established a property tax cap for school districts, counties and municipalities. New York should proceed cautiously before making the cap permanent in order to gather more information on the impact of the cap. Increasing state funding of services like education, healthcare or providing targeted property tax relief such as a circuit breaker credit would be more effective and efficient ways to address high property taxes. But short of eliminating the cap, here are some ways to mitigate some pressing problems with the cap as currently designed.

  • The cap should allow at least 2 percent growth in the base property tax levy and more if inflation increases in the future.
  • The cap should be adjusted for costs related to increased enrollment in schools by including a student growth index that is similar to the tax base growth factor.
  • New York should allow more carryover of unused space under the cap and allow schools and localities to “bank” any carryover for future use.
  • The cap should be adjusted to allow localities to raise the revenue needed to address the effects of natural disasters like floods and storms.
  • The current cap override provisions should be changed to allow for a simple majority override as most states with limits do.
  • The override procedure should be modified so that the fallback in the case of disapproval is not a levy freeze for school districts. Voters could choose between a school basic budget based on a cap-compliant increase in the levy and one with a larger increase.
  • The cap should exclude the capital improvement expenditures of local governments and school district costs for improvements to BOCES facilities.

For more details on these proposals see the full report (PDF).

PDF of this Summary

Comments Provided to the New York Fast Food Wage Board

June 1, 2015. FPI played an important role in the efforts to convince the New York Fast Food Wage Board in June and July 2015 to recommend a $15 wage floor for 136,000 workers in large fast-food chains. FPI materials include the following:

Testimony at the Buffalo hearing of the Fast Food Wage Board, June 5, 2015

Supplemental comments to the Fast Food Wage Board, June 26, 2015

Op-ed, “Boosting the Wages of Fast-Food Workers Will Help the Economy,” in the July 20, 2015 Albany Times Union

Table showing faster growth in fast-food employment in all parts of New York State (Upstate, Downstate suburbs, New York City) than at the national level, 2007-2014

Testimony on Increasing the Minimum Wage in the Fast-Food Industry

June 5, 2015. James Parrott presented testimony to the New York State Department of Labor Wage Board hearing on increasing the minimum wage in the fast-food industry.

Fast-food is a highly profitable and fast-growing industry. Fast-food employment has risen across New York, adding significantly to the growing problem of low-wages that are far from adequate in allowing a worker to meet basic family budget needs. A significant portion of fast-food workers are trying to raise families, but more than two out of every five workers in this industry live in or near poverty. Not surprisingly, 60 percent of New York’s fast-food workers rely on one or more forms of public benefits to supplement their meager fast-food earnings. As a result of this cost-shifting, taxpayers shoulder over $900 million in public costs that essentially amounts to a subsidy to fast-food’s low-wage business model.

In light of these facts, it would be sound public policy for New York State to phase in a $15 an hour minimum wage for the fast-food industry. Considerable economically sound research supports the conclusion that the industry can accommodate such an increase. A higher wage floor would generate significant cost savings due to reduced turnover and there is room for modest price increases to ease the adjustment without jeopardizing overall employment levels or profitability.[1] Moreover, a $15 fast-food wage floor would boost consumer spending and reduce poverty, and would have positive overall economic consequences throughout New York State.

PDF of Testimony

[1] See, e.g., Robert Pollin and Jeannette Wicks-Lim, A $15 U.S. Minimum Wage: How the Fast-Food Industry Could Adjust Without Shedding Jobs, University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute, January 2015.

New Americans on Long Island: A Vital Fifth of the Economy

June 2, 2015. There are 526,000 immigrants living on Long Island, making up 18 percent of the region’s population and 20 percent of the economic output of Long Islanders, according to a study released today by the Fiscal Policy Institute, New Americans on Long Island: A Vital Fifth of the Economy.

Half of immigrants overall (51 percent) work in white-collar jobs, the study found, and the large majority (61 percent) live in families earning over $80,000 a year. Immigrants represent significant numbers of the people in more highly paid jobs such as professionals (23 percent), technicians (24 percent), and registered nurses pharmacists and health therapists (23 percent), as well as significant numbers in less well-paid jobs such as construction laborers (32 percent), food preparation services workers (33 percent), and sales clerks and cashiers (21 percent).

The report also includes tabulations of a Migration Policy Institute analysis estimating the number of unauthorized immigrants on Long Island to be 98,000—48,000 in Nassau and 50,000 in Suffolk. The analysis shows that a quarter of unauthorized immigrants work in construction and the other three quarters work in jobs from food services to retail to child care and more.

This report updates our 2011 report, New Americans on Long Island: A Vital Sixth of the Economy.

Click here for the full report, and here for the press release.

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