New York City is teetering on the verge of interfering with the free market and alienating employers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned Wednesday as he railed against legislation being pushed by the City Council that would boost wages offered by some companies that receive city benefits.
The two bills "are a throwback to the era when government viewed the private sector as a cash cow to be milked, rather than a garden to be cultivated," the mayor said at City Hall before vetoing one of the measures.
"When it comes to creating jobs, government is not the architect of the economy — that's the private sector's job. Government is the steward," said Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman who was himself a New York City employer for years as he built up the financial information services company that carries his name.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn promised the council would quickly override the mayor's veto of the so-called prevailing wage bill, which would guarantee wages of more than $20 an hour for some building-services workers at properties that receive city subsidies of more than $1 million and in large buildings in which the city leases significant space.
The council is expected to pass another bill next week that would guarantee a so-called "living wage" of $10 or $11.50 an hour to employees of companies directly receiving at least $1 million in city assistance. Quinn said the council would also override the mayor's promised veto of that bill. The mayor said the city would then challenge both measures in court.
"This year alone, city benefits to businesses and developers will cost taxpayers nearly $250 million. All we are trying to do is ensure that taxpayer investment is going to subsidize jobs that pay a reasonable wage," Quinn said in a statement. The city's development incentive program already interferes with the free market on behalf of businesses, she said.
The minimum wage in New York is $7.25. Bloomberg is supporting an effort in Albany to raise it to $8.50 and index it to inflation.
Quinn is among the politicians expected to run to replace Bloomberg, who is leaving office at the end of 2013. The mayor on Wednesday warned that the two wage measures could scare off businesses and signal to them that their future in New York is uncertain.
The bills "will send a signal to the private sector that New York City government may move to adopt even more requirements on wages — and more onerous regulations on their business in the future," he said.
Get the latest from NBC 4 New York anytime, anywhere. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Get our apps here and sign up for email newsletters here. Get breaking news delivered right to your phone -- just text NYBREAKING to 639710. For more info, text HELP. To end, text STOP. Message and data rates may apply.