ALBANY – New York State lawmakers have been able to reach an agreement on another on-time state budget.
On Thursday, Governor Andrew Cuomo joined Senate leader John Flanagan and Assembly leader Carl Heastie in announcing the agreement on the $154 billion spending plan, which covers the states’ fiscal year beginning today and continuing to March 31, 2017.
MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE
The budget includes a number of initiatives that the governor had pushed for and which he said would strengthen opportunity for working and middle class families. They including raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in every region of the state, although at different time intervals.
While New York City would see the minimum raise increase to $15 by Dec. 31, 2018, it will take a longer time to be phased in in upstate, including Chautauqua County. There, the wage would increase to $9.70 at the end of 2016, then another .70 each year after until reaching $12.50 on Dec. 31, 2020. After that date, the minimum wage for Upstate New York will continue to increase to $15 on an indexed schedule to be set by the Director of the Division of Budget in consultation with the Department of Labor.
PAID FAMILY LEAVE AND OTHER INITIATIVES
The budget agreement also includes the longest and most comprehensive paid family leave program in the nation. When fully phased- in, 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 will be phased-in beginning in 2018 at 50 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage, capped to 50 percent of the statewide average weekly wage, and fully implemented in 2021 at 67 percent of their average weekly wage, capped to 67 percent of the statewide average weekly wage.
The budget also includes a record $24.8 billion in education aid, and also grows the economy with a $4.2 billion middle class tax cut over a five year period. And the spending plan includes critical statewide infrastructure investments – including a new $55 billion State Transportation Plan that commits $27.14 billion for Department of Transportation and Thruway programs and $27.98 billion for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
BIG WINS FOR DUNKIRK
State Senator Cathy Young (R,C,I- 57th District), who represents Chautauqua County, says she’s ecstatic that the state has delivered on a promise to move the Athenex project forward. The project, announced in February, will deliver $200 million in state funding for the proposed north county pharmaceutical manufacturing center, which will create 900 jobs in Chautauqua County.
Young said that the project wasn’t a done deal, with the some member of the Assembly trying to remove it from its one-house budget resolution. However, Young said that both she and Assemblyman Andy Goodell (R-Chautauqua) fought to ensure the $200 million would be passed.
Senator Young joined Governor Cuomo and other officials in February to announce that an agreement had been reached between SUNY Polytechnic Institute and Athenex to build and staff a $1.5 billion, 300,000 square foot pharmacy oncology manufacturing facility in Dunkirk area.
Senator Young also announced that she successfully has led the charge to secure a $30 million power plant mitigation fund in the state budget to offset property tax losses in communities across the state, including Dunkirk.
She said the Senate ensured that the final budget language was changed so that mothballed plants such as NRG would qualify, and the county would be added as a recipient of funds.
The state power plant mitigation fund will cover 80 percent of the lost revenues from mothballing. In January, NRG notified the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency that its total PILOT payment of $8,197,474 would be reduced by 85 percent to $1,229,621.
As a result, the city, school and county would see nearly a $7 million loss of revenues this year.