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Address income disparity by raising minimum wage

A hike in the state minimum wage is long overdue. We need to turn the minimum wage from a poverty wage into a living wage -- at least $10 an hour.

The Assembly has proposed an initial step of $8.50 an hour, up from $7.25, with an index to inflation. Senate Republicans oppose. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been silent but is thought to support some hike.

A minimum wage raise would be a good first step in addressing the tremendous income disparity that has developed over the last 30 years. The wealth gap in New York is the greatest in the country -- and the United States has the greatest gap among the industrial democracies.

Average wages are 7 percent lower today, adjusted for inflation, than they were in 1973. The last time we saw the richest 1 percent getting 35 percent of the income was in 1927 -- right before the Great Depression.

The minimum wage was enacted during the Depression as a way to get the economy moving again by putting more money into the hands of the working poor. When the rich have so much money, tax cuts for the wealthy don't create jobs or stimulate the economy because they have too much money to spend.

The number of people coming to food pantries and soup kitchens has increased 60 percent in the last four years. Many of the 3 million New Yorkers receiving food have jobs but don't earn enough to make ends meet. Raising the state's minimum wage to $8.50 would benefit about 1 million New York workers. Adults account for more than 84 percent of workers who would benefit.

The minimum wage was not one of several key non-budget items that were done as part of the recent state budget deal. Let's hope lawmakers agree to a pay hike for the working poor right after they get back from their vacation.

Mark A. Dunlea

Executive Director, Hunger Action Network of New York State

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How can Councilman claim wife was duped?

I don't understand this. A member of the Common Council, who is involved in voting on laws relating to the people of the City of Buffalo, did not know and was not told by his wife that she was making counterfeit checks in their home and signing other people's names on them, (which common sense tells you is wrong!)?

He says she was duped by an online predator. I, for one, find this really hard to believe, especially in this day and age of being warned all the time about fraud on the Internet.

Timothy C. Mahaney

West Seneca

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No reason to repeal Stand Your Ground

A columnist and a letter writer recently stated that Florida should repeal its Stand Your Ground law. I have one simple question for them. Why?

As a law-abiding citizen and a homeowner in New York State, why can I not stand my ground? Why do I have to be forced into a corner, cowering and fearing for my safety and the safety of my loved ones, before I can strike back in their defense and mine?

Why do I have to be careful about why I strike back and how? Why can't I use deadly force if I feel threatened enough and why do I have to justify it if I do? Why does a home invader, or otherwise potentially violent offender, have more apparent rights, in the eyes of the law, than I do, the homeowner or victim?

Why is Stand Your Ground wrong? Why do we not have it, or the Castle Doctrine, here in New York State? Why should I care what happens to the person breaking the law? In short, why is the perpetrator of a crime better protected in New York State than his victim?

Once someone has explained that to me in a way that I can believe in, then I will believe that Florida should repeal its laws and that George Zimmerman should be hung out to dry. I'll leave this with you, as well. Why is he being tried, and found guilty, in the eyes of the media before it ever sees the inside of a courtroom?

Dave McKewan

Williamsville

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New York State spends too much on education

This letter is in response to the woman who is happy to pay the school taxes she has been paying for the past 37 years for the quality of education in New York State.

I have to ask if this person has children and grandchildren and, if so, what state do they live in? If they are New York residents, do they work for the government in some form or another?

While she is not complaining about the quality or cost of education in New York, did she happen to notice that 49 other states can educate their children just as well for less? No, they do not go to a one-room schoolhouse with a wood stove and dirt floors. Maybe what this person does not understand is that it is not necessary for school districts to be the biggest employers in many of our school districts.

We should not have a ratio of four pupils to each employee. We should not have to pay for fleets of buses and have them transport 10 to 12 children. We should not have to pay for multimillion-dollar sports facilities complete with Astroturf in every district.

What we should have is a high-quality education so that our children can afford to live in our state after graduation. This also includes buying a home, finding a job that pays more than minimum wage and being able to pay reasonable property taxes.

What we should not have is a very vocal group of parasites sucking the life blood from our communities with no regard for anyone but themselves. Maybe everyone should ask why in New York it costs $20,000 to $30,000 per student, per year for 12 or more years, only to have them move away after graduation.

Harvey Schwartzmeyer

North Collins

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Credit checks unfair to those seeking jobs

With the unemployment rate at 8.3 percent, it does not help those who are out of work to be subjected to criminal and credit background checks. Unfortunately, 90 percent of companies are doing this. There are 5.4 million people who have been unemployed for more than six months. Just how well one handles one's finances is not always a true indicator of one's performance on the job. Furthermore, a criminal record can cut the chances of getting a job by 50 percent.

I think it's about time lawmakers and regulators change the law, making it prohibitive to use such stringent practices. In the state of Washington, if a person has a felony conviction, it is erased after 10 years, giving the ex-convict a second chance. That's the way it should be throughout the country.

Sam Giarratano

Buffalo