fastfoodAs Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans a prominent push for a broad $15 minimum wage, Senate Republicans at a hearing on Thursday questioned the likely approval of a $15 minimum wage for workers in the fast-food industry.

At the Albany hearing — held hours before Cuomo and Vice President Joe Biden will push in New York City for a $15 minimum wage — Republican lawmakers criticized a wage board’s July recommendation for a phased-in wage increase for workers at fast-food restaurants.

The hearing itself underscored the deep partisan divide over what is expected to be a broader debate next year over increasing the state’s minimum wage, which is due to increase to $9 by the end of 2015.

“The image that will project across the country because there’s always a concern that if we make our state less attract that will impact the opportunities that workers have here if there’s no investment,” said Sen. Jim Seward, a Republican from the Cooperstown area.

The witnesses called to testify included members of the wage board and the acting labor commissioner, Mario Musolino. None of those officials attended the hearing in Albany.

But lawmakers did speak with representatives of the restaurant industry as well as business owners themselves, casting the wage increase as one that would make the state less competitive and hurt employment of low-wage workers.

“To me this is a personal issue because someone is playing politics with the ability to put food on the table of their families,” said Sen. Jack Martins, a Nassau County Republican who led the hearing. “Whether it’s the worker, the restaurant owner or the small business owner. Politics has no place in the ability for families to put food on their table.”

Despite the concerns being aired, there’s very little Republican lawmakers can do to combat the wage board’s recommendation, which is expected to be approved by the Department of Labor.

A less generous and broader wage increase proposed by Cuomo this year faltered in the Legislature. Cuomo, too, has been hesitant to support local control for increasing the minimum wage, which has been sought by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Cuomo has had varying stances over the last several years when it comes to backing a minimum wage increase. But the governor, facing growing questions from liberal advocates questioning his Democratic bonafides, has sought to exert a more muscular stance on issues key to progressives.

Cuomo embraced the $15 wage proposal for fast-food workers soon after the wage board’s recommendation in July, which came after a major national push from low-wage advocates that have had additional successes in Los Angeles and Seattle.

Now, Cuomo will push for a broader wage increase to $15 for all low-wage workers in the state — a move that Republicans in the chamber can block, but will likely be part of election-year politics as all 213 seats in the Legislature are up for re-election.

Still, the GOP conference found mutually sympathetic ears with the restaurant industry.

“There is a legislature. Let’s have that debate,” said Angelo Amador, a vice president in the New York State Restaurant Association. “We will be here — the New York state Restaurant Association and others — will be here to have that debate.”