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In a political climate defined by stagnant wages for millions of workers, growing inequality and populist revolts in both parties, activists from outside of the political establishment and low-wage workers achieved a major victory on Monday when the Democratic governors of California and New York both signed bills that would gradually increase their states’ minimum wages to $15 per hour.
Politically, the minimum wages hikes were the culmination of a strong push from both labor unions and liberal activist groups, despite some reluctance from leading Democrats, to significantly raise the minimum wage in states. Neither state has enacted a bill that would simply make wages $15 per hour immediately, which would be more than double the current $7.25 federal minimum wage. Wages will increase more slowly in the less expensive parts of the state, scheduled to reach $12.50 per hour by 2021 and $15 a few years after that. One of the issues that candidates from both parties have been talking about a lot is minimum wage. California, which had a $10 minimum wage, will increase it statewide each year starting in 2017, until reaching $15 per hour in 2022. About 2 million people in California currently are paid the minimum wage, according to the office of Gov. The passage of these two bills is a significant accomplishment for the “Fight for 15” movement. The minimum hikes came after years of strikes by fast food workers in major cities across the country, as well as a push to get more moderate Democratic politicians, such as Cuomo, to embrace these provisions. The passage of these laws also illustrates the growing divide between red and blue states in an era when little is happening in Washington, because the president and Congress are from different parties.

The New York State Thruway Authority could need to raise tolls by nearly 5 percent to balance its financial plan next year—on the way to a 44 percent toll increase by 2018, according to the “toll revenue target” in the authority’s proposed 2015 budget. In the continuing absence of a separate (public) financial plan for the $4 billion Tappan Zee Bridge project, the proposed budget reflects the impact the bridge will have on the authority’s finances over the next four years. With no increases in toll rates, projected traffic increases can be expected to raise 2018 toll revenues by $29 million over the estimated 2014 level, the authority’s independent traffic engineer said in a memo contained in the budget (p. The chart below, based on numbers in the proposed budget, compares the toll target necessary to balance the authority’s fiscal plan to the toll revenues forecast by its traffic engineer based on current toll rates.
The numbers in the proposed budget do not mean the authority is obligated or planning to raise tolls. The next Thruway Authority board meeting, at which the budget presumably will be taken up, is scheduled for Dec. New Tappan Zee Bridge accounts for bulk of projected Thruway spending needs over next 4 yrs. The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York.
The #FightFor15 won’t quit until we all have $15 + union rights,” read a Twitter message from “Fight for 15,” the group, backed by the Service Employees International Union, that has pushed for minimum wage hikes all over the country. Now Congress needs to act to raise the federal minimum wage and expand access to paid leave for all Americans,” Obama said in a statement.President Obama hailed the moves, as did his potential Democratic successors, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

In his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama called for an increase of the minimum wage to $9 per hour. While labor unions and liberal activists have made a $15 minimum wage nationally one of their core organizing principles, neither Clinton nor Obama has embraced this idea, although Sanders does.
New York and California’s politics are dominated by Democrats, leading to the embrace of proposals like this minimum wage increase. However, one way or another, the authority needs to balance its financial plan—and, as of now, assuming a toll hike on paper is the only way to do it. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.
Now, two states, where a combined 59 million of America’s 320 million people live, have enacted much higher increases three years later. But to maintain fiscal balance, the financial plan assumes tolls will rise by $334 million.  In 2015 alone, the traffic engineer projected toll revenues of $664 million, but the authority’s long-term plan (p. Andrew Cuomo will gradually increase wages in New York City to $15 per hour by the end of 2018 and in the counties surrounding New York City by 2021.In terms of economic policy, these two states will now be laboratories to explore if substantial hikes in the minimum wage help boost earnings for minimum-wage workers and spur raises for other employees at companies, as liberals argue, or if they result in companies cutting jobs, as conservatives say.

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