New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has proposed raising the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, and tying it to inflation, according to reports in The New York Times and other publications. He argues, straight-forwardly, that making the current $7.25 minimum wage full time means making $15,000 a year.

That's less than poverty levels in New York City. It's simply impossible to live on, said Michah C. Lasher, director of state legislative affairs in the city. A wage of $8.50 would be a 17 percent raise from $7.25.

New York State Democrats estimate the raise would help more than a million New Yorkers. New York Republicans are opposed to the plan, arguing it would make New York less competitive and lead to layoffs.

Liberals greeted the proposal warmly. Paul Sonn, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, called it a good start, but pointed to statistics showing that if the minimum wage had merely kept pace with inflation for the past 40 years it would now be $10.39.