New York Senate Approves $15 Minimum Wage Plan as Part of $156 Billion Budget Deal

The announcement of the wage agreement in New York comes on the same day lawmakers in California voted to raise their state's minimum wage to $15 by 2022

The New York Senate on Friday overwhelmingly passed a budget that includes a measure to gradually raise the state's minimum wage to $15, matching the top hourly pay approved by California lawmakers Thursday.

The Republican-controlled chamber voted 61-1 for the final bill after working through the night to pass other parts of the $156 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that began Friday.

The bill also included paid family leave for New York workers and a tax cut for middle-class filers. The wage portion contains a series of "calibrated" increases that would boost the paychecks of 2 million workers across New York state.

"We knew we could lift millions out of poverty if we just stayed focused," said Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, leader of the Senate's Democratic minority. "It's a good day, even if it is a very, very long day."
The Democrat-controlled Assembly, which adjourned early Friday, was expected to meet following Friday afternoon briefings to begin debate on the wage bill.

Sen. Jeff Klein, leader of the chamber's Independent Democratic Conference, said family leave starting in 2018 will be phased in, from eight weeks to 10 weeks to 12, giving workers time to bond with newborns and take care of sick children or elderly parents. It will be funded by payroll deductions starting at 70 cents a week and rising to $1.40. Benefits will range from 50 to 67 percent of average weekly wages.

Sen. John Flanagan, Republican majority leader, noted other provisions, including a boost in state aid to public schools to $24.8 billion, eliminating a state clawback of some aid, and the income tax cut starting in 2018.

It would apply to New Yorkers with incomes between $40,000 and $300,000 and rates that currently range from 6.45 percent to 6.65 percent. The rates would gradually drop to 5.5 and 6 percent by 2025.

Sen Martin Golden, a Brooklyn Republican, noted the minimum wage hikes have different time lines and they'll watch its impact on businesses. The legislation beginning in 2019 directs state budget officials to analyze the economy in each region of New York and the effect of the wage increases statewide to determine whether to temporarily suspend scheduled hikes.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and leaders of both chambers reached an agreement Thursday on the entire budget and its various provisions.

"This minimum wage increase will be of national significance," the Democratic governor said. "It's raising the minimum wage in a way that's responsible."

The state's current $9 hourly wage would rise to $15 in New York City in three years, although businesses with fewer than 10 employees would get four years. The wage would climb to $15 on Long Island and in Westchester County in six years. The wage would increase more gradually upstate, hitting $12.50 in six years.

Further increases to $15 upstate would be tied to economic indicators like inflation and set by state budget and labor officials.

In California, the Legislature on Thursday approved a measure to raise the state's minimum wage to $15, the highest in the nation. Gov. Jerry Brown said he will sign the bill Monday in Los Angeles.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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