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Friday, April 1, 2016
ENP STAFF REPORTS
news@eastniagarapost.com


Andrew Cuomo
ALBANY -- An agreement has been reached on the 2016-2017 New York State budget between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders.

The $96.2 billion budget holds the growth in state spending to two percent for the sixth consecutive year, and includes what the governor's office refers to as "a number of landmark policies that will strengthen opportunity for working and middle class families and a record $24.8 billion in education aid."

Gov. Cuomo said, “New York State has once again come together to get things done. Many have proposed the big changes we sought – minimum wage, meaningful paid family leave, a balanced budget that caps spending and cuts taxes – but almost all have failed. Today, I am proud to announce that with this agreement, we have succeeded.

Minimum wage was a key part of Cuomo's proposal.

"We believe that people who work hard should be able to earn a decent living and support a family with dignity. With a statewide $15 minimum wage and the nation’s only 12-week paid family leave program, we are going to prove that the economy can and should work for all," he said.

Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan said the budget "ensures state government continues to live within its means and builds on the progress we have realized in making New York more affordable for middle-class taxpayers and their families. It includes a record level of funding for our schools and complete elimination of the GEA, a top Senate Republican priority. I am pleased that we have fought for and won true parity in infrastructure funding, along with more than $1 billion in real and lasting middle-income tax cuts, property tax relief for hardworking taxpayers and seniors, and creation of a program to allow New Yorkers to care for their families. ... We have more work to do in making New York the land of opportunity for all, but today is another big step in the right direction."

Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie added, "Critically, this budget provides funding support for affordable housing, preserves access to quality health services for millions of low-income New Yorkers, and makes important investments in anti-poverty initiatives throughout the state. This is a budget that takes the necessary steps to move our communities and our state forward."

Details on some of the most significant parts of the budget are as follows:

Minimum Wage

  • For workers in New York City employed by large businesses (those with at least 11 employees), the minimum wage would rise to $11 at the end of 2016, then another $2 each year after, reaching $15 on 12/31/2018.
  • For workers in New York City employed by small businesses (those with 10 employees or fewer), the minimum wage would rise to $10.50 by the end of 2016, then another $1.50 each year after, reaching $15 on 12/31/2019.
  • For workers in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties, the minimum wage would increase to $10 at the end of 2016, then $1 each year after, reaching $15 on 12/31/2021.
  • For workers in the rest of the state, the minimum wage would increase to $9.70 at the end of 2016, then another .70 each year after until reaching $12.50 on 12/31/2020 – after which 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.

It is estimated that more than 2.3 million people will be affected by the increases in the minimum wage.

Paid Family Leave
The budget agreement 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. This program will be funded entirely through a nominal payroll deduction on employees, who are eligible to participate after having worked for their employer for six months.

Middle Class Tax Cut
The budget lowers Personal Income Tax rates for middle class New Yorkers. With the middle class tax cuts of 2012, rates were lowered from 6.85 percent to 6.45 percent for taxpayers in the $40,000-$150,000 income bracket, and to 6.65 percent in the $150,000-$300,000 income bracket. Under these new reforms, the rate will drop even further beginning in 2018 and will continue to drop all the way to 5.5 percent when the cuts are fully phased in.

These new lower tax rates will save middle class New Yorkers nearly $6.6 billion in just the first four years, with annual savings reaching $4.2 billion by 2025. As the new rates phase in, they will be the state’s lowest middle class tax rates in more than 70 years. When the tax cuts begin, they will benefit 4.4 million filers, growing to 6 million filers when fully phased in.

Support for Schools and Education
The budget provides $24.8 billion in School Aid, the highest amount ever, and $5.3 billion more than 2011-12. While total state spending has been held to two percent annual growth and most state agency budgets have been held essentially flat, School Aid is increasing by 6.5 percent for the 2016-17 School Year and will have increased by nearly 27 percent since 2011-12. The increases of the last five years are as follows:

  • 2011-12 School Aid: $19.64 billion
  • 2012-13 School Aid: $20.35 billion ($805 million increase, 4.1 percent)
  • 2013-14 School Aid: $21.23 billion ($992 million increase, 4.9 percent)
  • 2014-15 School Aid: $22.24 billion ($1.13 billion increase, 5.3 percent)
  • 2015-16 School Aid: $23.5 billion ($1.35 billion increase, 6.1 percent)
  • 2016-17 School Aid: $24.8 billion ($1.5 billion increase, 6.5 percent)

Community Schools

The budget includes $175 million in funding to transform failing schools and other high needs schools into community schools.

Charters
The Budget increases support for charter schools statewide by an estimated $430 per pupil. The budget makes permanent the calculation of rental aid for New York City charter schools.

Infrastructure Spending
The budget contains the largest state transportation plan ever approved, with over $55 billion of transportation investments statewide, including $27.14 billion for State Department of Transportation and Thruway programs and $27.98 billion for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority programs. The plan aligns capital programming for DOT and MTA over a 5-year period (SFY 2016-20) and includes additional commitments for priority projects and programs that extend over a sixth year.



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