Area state lawmakers wary of state minimum wage hike; Route 219 update

Posted on April 2nd, 2016

by Rick Miller, Salamanca Press

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The state Legislature on Friday voted to pass the 2016-17 state budget that included an increase in the minimum wage to $12.50 over four years.

The state’s minimum wage is $9 per hour, which will get a boost to $9.70 in Upstate counties by Dec. 31, 2016. The minimum wage would go up 70 cents a year until Dec. 31, 2020, when it would hit $15. In New York City, the minimum wage would go to $11 an hour at the end of this year, and increase $2 a year until it reaches $15 at the end of 2018.

The state Senate passed the last of the budget bills by 10 a.m. Friday, while the Assembly did not meet to consider the bills until mid-afternoon. They finished voting about 8 p.m.

While the budget was a day late due to tough last-minute negotiations — largely involving the minimum wage — state Sen. Catharine M. Young, R-Olean, called the budget the “sixth consecutive fiscally responsible state budget.”

Assemblyman Joseph Giglio, R-Gowanda, who called from the Assembly floor about 4:30 p.m. to say they hadn’t started to vote on the budget yet, commented that “this is a tough budget.”

Young said the budget increases state funding for education, eases the tax burden for middle-class families, and helps grow the economy and create jobs.

The minimum wage agreement in the budget is far less than Cuomo had sought and amounts to a victory for Upstate farmers and small business, Young said. Senate Republicans stopped the statewide $15 minimum wage, she added.

“I profoundly disagreed with Governor Cuomo’s push to impose a $15 per hour minimum wage on the upstate economy because of potential inflation and loss of jobs,” Young said. “The Senate’s choice was to either try to mitigate the Governor’s plan by addressing it in the state budget, or he would use extraordinary powers to force through the $15 minimum wage via wage boards on all sectors of the economy if no action was taken.

“The Senate rejected the Governor’s one-size-fits-all plan to move all regions of the state to a $15 minimum wage, and instead the enacted plan reflects the significant economic differences that exist between regional economies in a state as large and diverse as New York.”

Giglio was critical of the raise.

“How do our small businesses deal with this?” said Giglio. “Especially family farms. You should let the market dictate” the rate. “This will hurt our businesses here.”

Young said she was pleased with the parity agreement in transportation funding between Upstate counties and New York City to split $27 billion.

While there is no specific funding in the budget for the Route 219 Expressway through Cattaraugus County, Young said a memorandum of understanding on projects is expected before the session ends in June.

“I’m going to continue to work very hard for Route 219 funding,” Young told the Times Herald in a telephone interview Friday afternoon. Another environmental review of the route is needed before any federal permits or funding can be sought.

Young noted the new proposal of starting construction from the Salamanca end to the north rather than extend the existing expressway to the south is being seriously considered. “Everyone is interested in getting this project moving forward.”

Giglio said he believed the state Department of Transportation would apply for federal transportation funding under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act that would include Route 219.

The state needs to complete a supplemental environmental impact statement before anything else can happen. The first 1.6-mile section of a Route 219 expressway north from Interstate 86, would not only include a bridge across the Allegheny River, but an agreement with the Seneca Nation of Indians for an easement to cross the Allegany Territory.

Giglio added that he would help lobby to include Route 219 in the memorandum of understanding.

He was thankful for $235,000 to study the former J.N. Adam Developmental Center site in Perrysburg, which has been vacant for decades.

But the assemblyman was critical of the entire process, saying the budget was “another three men in a room” making the decisions. Assembly Republicans didn’t get budget bills until Friday morning.

“The budget shouldn’t just be on time,” he said. “I thought it would be more open and transparent. The budget should be good and on time.”

Young led much of the Senate floor debate over the budget, which passed around 10 o’clock in the morning.

She said the budget includes $4.2 billion in middle-income tax cuts, continued property tax relief through the S.T.A.R. program and creation of a program to help families care for a loved-one in a time of need.

“Efforts to address the rapidly growing public health crisis created by heroin and opioid abuse also received substantial attention as part of the state budget,” Young said, noting $166 million has been earmarked for the crisis. “The best approach to address the state’s growing public health epidemic is through prevention and treatment, and prosecution of dealers to the fullest extent.”

And paid family leave, to be run through the state’s existing Disability Insurance program, was also a positive outcome of the budget, she said.

“Finally, the budget enacted a paid family leave program that will balance the needs of New Yorkers with the needs of businesses,” Young said. “The program will give families the time to be together for the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a sick family member.”