SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Here’s an early round-up of some of the winners and losers in the $156 billion New York state budget, which lawmakers debated through Thursday night and are still voting on Friday morning.
(This assumes the budget bills all pass, which is usually a safe assumption.)
1. Restaurants, retail shops, and other businesses employing minimum wage or low-wage workers. The gradual hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour means that for every full-time employee currently earning the $9 an hour minimum wage, it will cost a business an extra $12,480 a year in salary once the $15 rate is reached.
2. Senate Republicans. They were vehement in their opposition to Cuomo’s $15 an hour minimum wage proposal. But in the end, the Senate reluctantly agreed to pass the minimum wage hike, albeit after negotiating some tweaks. Business organizations immediately criticized the wage hike. Republican senators won some other budget battles. But given the wage hike, will conservative voters and the businesses that contribute to Republican senators’ campaigns vigorously support them in November, when all 63 Senate seats are up for election and the Senate majority is at stake?
3. Good government groups. Despite the conviction of the Senate and Assembly’s top leaders, former Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Speaker Sheldon Silver, on public corruption crimes, lawmakers did not pass in the budget a single ethics reform proposed by good government groups. The governor and Legislature leaders did not include ethics reforms in the budget deal they made. The Democratic-controlled Assembly wouldn’t even support a bill that would strip Skelos, Silver and other convicted public officials of their state pensions. I guess taxpayers are losers then, too.
4. Democracy. The three men in a room – Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie – negotiated the budget deal behind closed doors. Then through the night, lawmakers debated and voted on budget bills that commit New York to spending $156 billion without having time to read the bills or hold public hearings, and without voters having a chance to weigh in.
1. Middle income taxpayers. You’ll have to wait until 2018, but the budget includes annual income tax cuts beginning that year for joint filers with income under $300,000. The Senate Republicans can claim credit for that.
2. Minimum wage workers. They’ll get a series of raises until they hit $15 an hour. That will happen by Dec. 31, 2018 in New York City (except at businesses 10 or fewer workers), but it will take longer in Upstate to reach $15.
3. Unions, especially those representing low-wage workers. The unions were Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ally in his campaign to raise New York’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, which will be tied for the highest in the country. Remember all that talk about unions losing their power?
4. SUNY students, at least for now. The Legislature balked at approving the SUNY 2020 plan, which would have allowed the state’s public colleges and universities to continue to raise tuition up to $300 per year for another five years. So tuition will not increase this year. But SUNY students could eventually find themselves facing bigger less frequent tuition increases.
5. Teachers and kids. The budget provides a record amount of school funding, $24.6 billion, for the state’s more than 700 school districts. The $1.5 billion increase over last year was very close to what the Republican-controlled Senate proposed. The Senate was also successful in eliminating the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which hit suburban and rural districts the hardest.
6. Construction companies and workers in hard hats. The budget includes over $55 billion of transportation capital projects statewide, including $27.14 billion for state Department of Transportation and Thruway programs in Upstate and $27.98 billion for Metropolitan Transportation Authority programs in the New York City area.
7. Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He made the $15 minimum wage and paid family leave his biggest budget priorities. And he got both included in the budget deal, along with a middle class tax cut that he didn’t propose but can now claim credit for. Although California lawmakers passed their state’s $15 an hour minimum wage a day before New York lawmakers, Cuomo can still declare himself at the forefront of the #FightFor15. And while Cuomo championed liberal issues, he kept the increase in state government operational spending at 2 percent.