While the passing of the annual state budget is always the focus of much attention, this year’s budget was particularly contentious because of the attached legislation calling for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and a 12-week paid family leave policy. (See last week’s story on how Westchester’s business community feels about the $15 minimum wage) Despite strong and vocal opposition from business leaders throughout New York State, the budget was passed earlier this week, including these two provisions, which will have large-scale impact on workers and business owners alike.
The legislation means workers in Westchester will see the minimum wage increase to $10 at the end of 2016, then $1 each year after, reaching $15 on 12/31/2021. And when phased in, the new family leave policy—which is being called the most comprehensive paid family leave program in the nation—means employees will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid family leave when caring for an infant, a family member with a serious health condition, or to relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service. Benefits for the family leave program will be phased in starting in 2018, and fully implemented in 2021.
In addition to these two signature policies, the budget also calls for tax breaks for the middle class as well as increased aid for school and infrastructure improvements.
So, what do local leaders have to say about it? Here are some excerpts from various statements shared with the media:
The Business Council of Westchester
“While the new state budget was passed essentially on time, to accomplish this, the Governor and leaders of the Senate and Assembly resorted to an all familiar pattern. The final negotiations were held through the night, behind closed doors with virtually no public transparency and no opportunity for legislators to review it…The controversial proposal to raise the State Minimum Wage to $15 was included, but not in a one-shot manner as originally proposed. The Business Council of Westchester played an important role in slowing down the implementation which in Westchester will take place over five-years. The BCW will carefully monitor the impacts on our members of the incremental increases in the minimum wage to assure the increases are not damaging their businesses.”
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Amy J. Allen, Vice President, Westchester County Association:
“The State budget, while containing some positives, does not go far enough to improve the business climate in New York State. While Westchester employers still have six years before the new $15 minimum wage is fully phased in, many employers will find the increase tough to absorb. The additional employee costs may be passed onto customers where possible, potentially reduce hiring, or create layoffs…On a positive note, $200 million was included for capital expenditures for healthcare institutions across the state, a sector that the Westchester County Association has long advocated for as it is the largest economic engine in our region… And the staged decrease in the income tax rate will ultimately reduce the top rate for approximately 70 percent of wage earners down to 5.5 percent.”
Ross Pepe, president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. and the Building Contractors Association of Westchester & Mid-Hudson Region, Inc:
“The approved budget meets the diversity of Hudson Valley regional transportation and water infrastructure needs and school district improvements: The combined effects of our growing population that relies on these vast networks of public facilities—many built generations ago—and years of underfunding capital improvements have created a level of need that is historic by all measures. We are delighted that our lawmakers have recognized present-day concerns by addressing them in both statewide infrastructure appropriations today as well as in anticipation of the demand for transportation and other infrastructure and facility services for our growing cities and communities in the future.”
State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senate Democratic Leader:
“What happened today with paid family leave and raising the minimum wage—this is an historic budget. The reality is that when we create this kind of history for so many people whose lives will be significantly changed, it is a good day.”
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano:
“I applaud the recent passage of the 2016-2017 New York State Budget as it continues to transform our state, particularly with the rise in minimum wage, the approval of paid family leave, increase aid in education and the elimination of the Gap Elimination Adjustment. These initiatives will better the lives of Yonkers residents and raise the bar on our economic and social opportunities…”