State approveS jump in Minimum wage News

| 04 Apr 2016 | 03:07

More than 2 million workers in New York stand to get raises thanks to an increase in the minimum wage, to $15 an hour, signed this week.

The deal, which includes a complicated series of regional increases, is part of a broader state budget proposal that also contains $1 billion in tax cuts and a paid family leave proposal.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted the minimum wage increase at a rally in Manhattan that was attended by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who faces a close New York primary later this month.

New York’s move came on the day lawmakers in California voted to raise their state’s wage to $15 by 2022. Cuomo had hoped New York would be the first state to enact a statewide $15 wage, but the increase approved by Albany would be more gradual and far more complicated.

In New York City, the wage would increase from $9 to $15 by the end of 2018, though businesses with fewer than 10 employees would get an extra year. On Long Island and in Westchester County, the wage would rise to $15 by the end of 2022. The increases are even more drawn out upstate, where the wage would hit $12.50 in 2021 and then increase to $15 based on an undetermined schedule.

The budget deal also includes $1 billion in middle-class tax relief, $25 billion in transportation spending with an emphasis on roads and bridges, a $1.5 billion increase in school spending and a paid family leave proposal that would allow workers to take up to 12 weeks off to care for new children or sick loved ones.

The massive spending blueprint, with a total of $150 billion in spending, was hashed out behind closed doors by Cuomo and legislative leaders. The secretive nature of the negotiations over the most important piece of public policy of the year irritated many rank-and-file lawmakers, who demanded more time.

Debate on the budget began even before many of the budget bills were printed and before lawmakers or the public could review the details.

Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, was ruled out of order when he pressed Senate Finance Chairwoman Catharine Young, R-Olean, for answers.

“I have a lot of faith,” she told him when he asked how she even knew which details were in the budget.

The answer didn’t please Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan.

“There are all kinds of places for faith in our lives,” she said. “But actually when you’re voting on the budget for the state of New York ... you actually want to see the budget bills.”

Smaller details from the budget deal did trickle out, including a piece that would authorize Medicaid coverage for “high needs” state prison and local jail inmates starting 30 days before their releases. Assembly sponsors pushed the plan, saying it would ensure the inmates can get prescription medications and services to keep them from relapsing and returning. The legislation authorizes seeking federal approval for the Medicaid change.