State budget includes minimum wage hike, paid family leave, other perks; lawmakers around St. Lawrence County react
The state budget, approved by the Legislature today and now awaiting the governor’s signature, includes a minimum wage hike, paid family leave and middle class tax cuts.
The minimum wage will go up to $12.50 increments by 2020, according to Sen. Joe Griffo, R-Rome. He says that year, the state will do an economic analysis “to assess the impact of this increase on employers, jobs and the economy to determine if the minimum wage should be paused or suspended for any period of time.”
Paid Family LeaveThe paid family leave program will be phased in over the next four years. Employees first will be eligible for up to eight weeks of paid leave a year, followed by up to 10 weeks and then ultimately up to 12 weeks starting in 2021, Griffo said.
“Because it will be funded entirely by the employees through a small payroll deduction, businesses will not have to bear any additional costs,” according to Griffo.
Middle Class Tax Cuts
The middle class tax cuts will be “the lowest in 70 years,” said Sen. Patty Ritchie, R-Heuvelton.
Griffo says it will save $6.6 billion over the next four years, with an annual saving of $4.2 billion once fully implemented.
“A new addition to the budget is a middle-income tax break that will provide a savings to taxpayers of $4.2 billion annually when fully phased-in. The budget also provides nearly $3 billion in property tax relief through STAR and enhanced STAR,” said Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury.
The budget will get rid of the little bit of Gap Elimination Adjustment that is left. The controversial spending tactic took money from school aid and used it to balance the budget.
“Of particular interest to me this year was the complete elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), which will mean an improved financial situation for our school districts,” said Little.
Griffo says overall school funding will hike $1.5 billion over last year, or 6.5 percent.
“This includes a substantial 4 percent increase of $627 million in Foundation Aid for the most high-need schools – more than the $266 million Governor Cuomo had proposed,” Griffo said. “The budget will also finally and fully restore all of the outstanding $434 million in funds that had been unfairly diverted from schools through the recession-era Gap Elimination Adjustment.”
Roads and Bridges
Griffo said the spending plan will grant “a record” $27 billion in statewide transportation investments for road and bridge repair.
“I’m pleased the budget includes a very large increase for transportation infrastructure and fairly balances the needs of upstate roads and bridges with downstate mass transit. The budget also funds $438 million for the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Programs (CHIPS) to help our local highway departments do a great job maintaining our local roadways,” Little said.
“It achieved parity in infrastructure funding, so upstate communities won’t be cheated of funds we need to ensure safe, reliable roads and bridges that sustain a healthy economy and help our region grow,” Ritchie said.
Farm-Fresh School Food
Assemblywoman Addie Russell, D-Theresa, says the budget includes a pilot program to give school districts reimbursements when they purchase local food grown in New York.
The budget allocates $300,000 to the Adirondack North Country Association to oversee the farm to school program specifically targeting schools in the North Country to help purchase food from regional farmers, Russell said.
That initiative would modify the state’s reimbursement formula for school lunches, by increasing reimbursement rates by 5 to 25 cents a meal from the current 6 cents.
The rate would be dependent on the percentage of locally grown and produced products that school districts purchase each year, Russell said.
Several lawmakers from around St. Lawrence County are reacting to the budget.
“I am pleased to see the Legislature and Governor Cuomo reached a budget deal late last night. This budget strongly supports the working and middle class in this state. The Governor’s leadership on raising the minimum wage, providing paid family medical leave, cutting taxes on the middles class, increasing funding for education and investing in infrastructure will help grow our economy and improve the lives of New Yorkers.
Increasing the minimum wage to a living wage is not only good for the economy; it’s the right thing to do. In a country with the greatest wealth in world, our citizens that are working should not live in poverty. Increase spending on education and improving the overall education system improves the lives of all New Yorkers, because it impacts nearly every key factor in our lives. Providing a quality education to our children helps build a strong economy, reduces poverty and makes our future brighter by giving our kids the opportunity to reach their full potential,” Massena Mayor Tim Currier said.
“Everyone who works full time should earn enough income to put food on their table and a stable roof over their head – and with a $15 minimum wage, we are taking a huge leap to make that goal a reality in this state. From creating a stronger workforce, to lifting people out of poverty and reducing the reliance on government assistance, this policy is a smart move. Governor Cuomo was absolutely right to make this issue a top priority in the budget, because it will ensure a stronger financial future for our state for years to come,” Gouverneur Mayor Ronald McDougall said.
"Our Governor and state representatives have produced a budget that helps address the needs of St. Lawrence County residents. Paid family Leave funded by nominal payroll deductions is a great benefit for North Country workers. The tax cut for the middle class, increased allocation for infrastructure and increased support for our schools are all impressive accomplishments, and reflect the bipartisan collaboration that is needed at all levels of government,” St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators Chairman Jon Burke said.