Outflanking de Blasio (and Cuomo and Obama), John Liu calls for an $11.50 minimum wage

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Last night at a mayoral forum about poverty, comptroller John Liu said, "In New York City, we need a minimum wage of 11.50 an hour."

The crowd gathered at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem roared with approval.

"Let me tell you something," said Liu. "Nine dollars buys you a lot more in Buffalo than it does in Brooklyn or the Bronx."

In his State of the Union speech last month, President Barack Obama called for raising the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

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In so doing, he superseded New York State Democrats' own minimum wage proposals.

Right now, the state's minimum wage is set at $7.25. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver called for a hike to $8.50, followed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said it should be raised to $8.75. 

Recently, Cuomo said the federal law represented a "complication," while Silver amended his own proposal to match the president's.

At last night's mayoral forum sponsored by, among others, the building workers union 32BJ, and the anti-poverty Community Service Society, Liu was the only candidate to advocate for an even higher wage.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, former councilman Sal Albanese and media executive Tom Allon all said they supported a $9 minimum wage instead.

"I also think we have to make sure there's the maximum number of jobs available for people," explained de Blasio. "We have 9 percent unemployment in this city."

Here's how Liu responded.

"Every time there's an increase in minimum wage, people claim that jobs are going to be lost," he said. "Sometimes there's a dip but it catches up eventually and it doesn't take that long to catch up. And my plan calls for a phase-in to $11.50 over a period of four to five years so that the pain is not immediately felt by some of the business owners, but the small business owners are the ones that have the kind of customer base that in many cases are making the minimum wage, so the multiplier effects … from raising the minimum wage to the right level is going to yield enormous benefits."

Also: "If the minimum wage in this country had kept up with pace of inflation, it should be $10.58 an hour right now."