New State Budget Includes "Calibrated" Minimum Wage Increase

Mar 31, 2016

(WXXI News & AP) Middle-class tax cuts, higher minimum wages and paid family leave will be on the agenda as the New York Assembly's minority Republicans and majority Democrats meet in their respective conferences. 

The Assembly debated and passed other pieces of the new state budget and related policy measures before adjourning at about 4 a.m. Friday. 

Four bills were printed overnight following last-minute negotiations and revisions. They'll be taken up Friday afternoon. 

Republican legislators said they needed more time for staff to read the bills and brief them before voting. 

The $156 billion spending plan is for the fiscal year that started Friday, but contains many provisions and commitments for later years. The tax cuts, minimum wage hikes and paid family leave are each set to be phased in. 

The Senate has passed them all and adjourned.  

As voting began Thursday night, Governor Cuomo gave a briefing about some of the details.

He says a minimum wage increase will bring New York City to a $15 rate in three years, four years for small business with less than 10 employees. Long Island will reach $15 in six years, but upstate would only reach a rate of $12.50 cents in five years. Cuomo says the compromise is “calibrated” to take into account the variations in the economies of different regions of the state, and business worries about the rate going up too high, too fast.  

“If you increase it too quickly, people have a fear that it could have a negative impact,” Cuomo said.

The plan also calls for a “pause” in 2019 to reevaluate the effects of the minimum wage increase before continuing to increase the rate.

“This is a safety valve,” Cuomo said.

Both opponents and supporters  condemned the plan. The National Federation of Independent Business said it  will “threaten the viability of New York’s small businesses.” The progressive group Citizen Action decried the lower rate for upstate saying, compared to California’s law passed earlier Thursday plan to raise its minimum wage statewide to $15 , New York's plan is “ a day late and $2.50 cents short.”  Groups more closely allied with Cuomo praised the agreement as “historic.”

The agreement also includes a plan first put forward by Senate Republicans to lower income tax rates for joint filers and small businesses earning up to $300,000 a year.

Tuition at the State University of New York will be frozen, and charter schools will get more money.

And the state will have a Paid Family Leave program, funded by employees, that after a four year phase-in will provide workers with two thirds of their pay for up to 12 weeks.

“You shouldn’t have to choose between a paycheck and being there for your family,” the governor said.

As Cuomo was announcing the budget deal Thursday evening, legislative leaders were still briefing their members on some of the remaining details. Earlier in the evening, lawmakers were asked to vote on bills that included monetary appropriations but not language on specific programs, which led to complaints from Democrats, who are in the minority in the Senate, including Senator Mike Gianaris,  from Queens.

“I’m wondering on behalf of not only my conference, but on behalf of the public, who is dying to know what’s going to be in this budget, if we ever get to see it,” Gianaris said. “Where does the confidence that those provisions will be in a budget that’s yet to be printed come from?"

When Senator Gianaris persisted in asking when Senators would see the bills they were expected to vote on, acting Senate President Joseph Griffo, of Utica, shut him down, banging his gavel and shouting “You’re out of order!”

Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, a
Republican for Syracuse, intervened.

“Let’s calm down a little bit both sides ,” said DeFrancisco who allowed Gianaris to continue with more questions.

“And hopefully we could move to the point and get on with this in a reasonable hour,” DeFrancisco said.

Debate then continued in a more civil manner. It was expected to continue long into the night.