What’s worth trading for a state minimum wage hike?

Rumors are flying that there’ll be a special legislative session in Albany next month to discuss Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed $15 statewide minimum wage — more than doubling the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour and substantially higher than the current state wage of $8.75.

That can only mean one thing if true: Republicans in Albany want to get rid of the issue as soon as possible and as far from the November 2016 elections as they can. Senate Republicans know a higher minimum wage is popular with voters — New Yorkers support raising the wage to $15 over the next few years by a 62-35 margin, according to a recent Quinnipiac University Poll.

At this point, I don’t know anyone who thinks that Senate Republicans won’t give in on minimum wage increase in some way. And you could hardly blame them if they do. Even though studies have shown that minimum wage increases, especially dramatic ones, dry up jobs, the New York Business Council, ostensibly the voice of the state’s business community, received Cuomo’s proposal with pronounced docility at its recent annual meeting.

It wasn’t until weeks afterward — Thursday of this week — that the council began to make some noise, estimating a private-sector labor cost increase of $15.7 billion per year if Cuomo’s wage hike goes through. Does anyone think the costs are going to be borne by businesses without layoffs and price hikes? How many of those businesses will simply fold, or pack up and move to neighboring states?

Republicans are fortunate to have State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) at the helm. Flanagan, unlike his predecessor, is a renowned policy expert and a shrewd political pragmatist. Anyone who chaired the Senate Education Committee for as long as he did has to be. Flanagan surely knows at what cost a large wage hike would come. Look to him to find a middle ground palatable to no one, but acceptable to all.

The looming wage fight raises an even more important point, though — the issue of Albany negotiations in general. For the past decade, it seems, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has out-negotiated everyone. It has set the statewide agenda by launching grand proposals just before the official January session begins — such as the Safe Act, same-sex marriage, universal pre-K and now the higher minimum wage — that put Republicans and moderate Democrats on the defensive for the rest of the year.

Republicans have been left in the position of either saying “no,” or in trying to trim the edges of what the progressive caucus wants. The last proactive victory the Republicans scored was the 2 percent tax cap in 2011, which was extremely significant (though accompanying mandate relief never came.)

The minimum wage increase may be a good campaign issue, but it’s not going to do a lick to bring renewed prosperity to New York. For that to happen, Republicans need to drive bold reform proposals like “right-to-work,” which 25 states now have, ending forced union membership in the public and private sectors, and repeal of the Triborough Amendment, the only-in-New-York law that prohibits municipalities from reforming fat public employee contracts.

Either of those would do wonders for New York’s economy.

Heck, I’d trade a $11 minimum wage in a heartbeat for right-to-work. For that and Triborough, put me down for $12.50.

William F. B. O’Reilly is a Republican consultant.