NY lawmakers pass bill to boost minimum wage to $15

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Assembly followed the Senate on Friday and passed budget legislation that will gradually raise the state's minimum wage to $15, matching the top hourly pay approved by California lawmakers Thursday.

The Democrat-controlled Assembly voted 97-38 for the bill containing the wage hikes and establishing paid family leave for New York workers.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo advocated both measures and plans to sign them into law, as well as seven other budget measures approved by both houses in the last two days.

The wage portion contains a series of "calibrated" increases that would boost the paychecks of 2.3 million workers across New York state.

"No one should work a full day and still live in poverty," said Assembly member Michele Titus, a Queens Democrat.

Long Island Republican Dean Murray predicted fewer jobs, especially entry-level jobs, and closed businesses. "It's an entry point, not an ending point," he said of the minimum.

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

"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."

Other legislation will trim income taxes for middle-class filers.

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 percent to 67 percent of average weekly wages.

Sen. John Flanagan, Republican majority leader, noted the budget boosts state aid to public schools to $24.8 billion, while eliminating a state clawback of some aid, and cuts income taxes starting in 2018.

That will 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 will gradually drop to 5.5 percent and 6 percent by 2025.

Sen. Martin Golden, a Brooklyn Republican, noted the minimum wage hikes have different time lines and lawmakers will watch the impact on businesses. The legislation directs budget officials in 2019 to analyze each region's economy and the effect of the wage increases, and determine whether to suspend scheduled hikes.

The first increase will take effect Dec. 31, raising the wage from $9 to $11 an hour for larger New York City employers and to $10.50 for those with 10 or fewer workers. At the same time, it will reach $10 an hour in Westchester County and Long Island, and $9.70 in the rest of the state.

Cuomo and leaders of both chambers reached an agreement Thursday on the entire budget package.

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

The wage would rise to $15 in New York City by the end of 2018, though businesses with fewer than 10 employees would have an extra year. The wage would climb to $15 on Long Island and in Westchester County in six years. It 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.

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