Mar 5th - 7:02 pm
The Assembly approved today a minimum wage hike on a largely party-line vote that is designed to send a message in what has so far been a comparatively uncontentious budget season.
The measure was approved 101 to 44. It would increase the $7.25 minmum wage to $9, and ties future increases to the rate of inflation, and was altered last month in order to mirror President Obama’s proposal on the federal level, made in his State of the Union address.
The bill that passed in the Democratic-dominated chamber this evening is unlikely to be made law, though that does not rule a form of the wage increase from taking place this year.
What the vote today did was set down a marker — publicly — of where rank-and-file legislative Democrats in Albany want to be on the minimum wage as the budget negotiations continue this month.
The intended audience for the statement is varied.
First, there’s the state Senate, where a coalition of Republicans and five independent Democrats control the chamber in a unique power-sharing agreement that is not yet three months old. The 27 so-called “mainline” Democrats have pointed out repeatedly they have the votes to pass a minimum wage hike in the Senate now, a talking point that’s designed to apply pressure to the Independent Democratic Conference.
A spokesman for Sen. Jeff Klein, the IDC leader and co-president of the Senate, said in a statement today he was confident the wage hike would be accomplished in the budget.
“Senator Klein strongly supports a minimum wage increase and expects to see an increase passed as part of this year’s budget package,” said the spokesman, Eric Soufer.
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, say the wage hike is for too much in a struggling economy. They are advancing their argument by backing a package of tax cuts of more than $2 billion.
Today, Sen. Tom Libous said it would be better to pair the wage hike with tax cuts, and possibly do it outside of the budget in order to achieve an on-time spending plan under a condensed schedule (the Easter and Passover holidays have moved up the budget-making process and a plan could be passed by March 21).
Still, Republicans are outnumbered in the chamber and likely see the same high poll numbers for the wage hike.
“Today, the Assembly once again advanced legislation to increase the minimum wage in New York State, this time proposing a hike to a full $9,” Senate GOP Leader and co-president Dean Skelos said. “I continue to have concerns that this measure may be counterproductive to our efforts to help businesses create new jobs and rebuild the state’s economy. We estimate that increasing the minimum wage to $9 would negatively impact New York businesses to the tune of $480 million, causing them to shed jobs to protect their bottom line.”
Another audience for the wage hike are labor groups and the labor-backed Working Families Party, key political constiutencies for the Assembly Democrats’ large majority. The last several years in Albany have seen spending cuts as well as a new, less generous pension tier.
While Silver backed and approved a minimum wage increase last year in the midst of an election season, labor still would like to see a tangible victory this legislative session.
Lastly, it is Cuomo who Assembly Democrats are also showing a unified front in the final weeks of the budget negotiations. Silver marshaled more than 100 votes to raise the minimum wage to his specifications. How it’s utlimately accomplished, Silver said, doesn’t matter.
“Whether it’s done this month or next month or the month after really doesn’t make a difference. The important thing is that it gets done,” Silver said.
Mar 5th - 2:36 pm
Deputy Senate Republican Leader Tom Libous today said it is likely the some form of a minimum wage hike will take place this year, but he hoped any hike would include tax provisions for businesses.
“We have to be realistic,” Libous said. ”We know that something’s going to take place. But we also have to give protection to businesses. I have a lot of friends back home who own diners, who own restaurants. I think service industry needs to have some protection.”
Libous added that he preferred the hike to place out of the budget in order to pave the way for an on-time spending plan by April 1.
The Democratic-led Assembly today is expected to pass its version of the minimum wage increase today. The bill calls for a minimum wage hike of $9 a hour and indexes future increases to the rate of inflation.
An exact copy of that bill is unlikely to pass the Senate, which is led by a coalition of Republicans and five Democrats.
“I think that the Assembly is doing the minimum wage outside of the budget is a healthy thing,” he said. ”I’m not sure that I would want to do the min wage in the budget.”
Libous called the $9 minimum wage a “pretty big increase” from $7.25. Cuomo’s budget calls for a $8.75 minimum wage with no indexing provision.
Senate Republicans have called for more than $2 billion in tax cuts for businesses and homeowners, including an end to the Paterson-era surcharge on utility assessments.
“I think something can be worked out,” Libous said. ”Working it out directly in the budget going to be uncomfortable for a lot of people, but I think it’s an issue that has to be addressed.”
Mar 4th - 3:41 pm
The Democratic-led Assembly is expected to vote on a measure that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $9 a hour and tie future increases to the rate of inflation, a move designed to send a message to the state Senate on what’s expected to be a very busy lobby day in the final weeks of the budget negotiations.
The vote is not wholly surprising and the measure, backed by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Assemblyman Keith Wright, and the measure is expected to pass overwhelmingly.
But the vote comes as state legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo continue to negotiate the $142.6 billion spending proposal that includes a wage hike of $8.75, but no index to inflation.
It also comes as the mainline Senate Democrats pointed out last week that support was sufficient in their chamber to pass the wage hike.
If anything, the move is designed to make a statement on the wage hike with a proposal that mirrors the one made by President Obama in his State of the Union address.
“The good thing is that number one it’s being talked about,” Wright said in an interview. “I remember for years and years it wasn’t talked about.”
Whether it is in the budget or done legislative donesn’t matter, Wright said, just as long as the hike is accomplished, though he did say which version of the minimum wage hike is actually done “remains to be seen.”
“If we can do it by way of a piece of legislation, that’s fine,” he said. “If we can do it by way of the budget, that’s fine.”
Senate Republicans have said they would prefer a mix of tax cuts and credits to a minimum wage hike, and today proposed a $500 million tax cut proposal that’s part of an overall $2 billion effort to cut taxes.
Senate GOP Leader and co-president Dean Skelos has said the state should wait to see what the federal government does before lawmakers act in Albany.
But Wright said that’s not the point.
“I think it’s silly,” he said. “I think we have to be proactive as a state. They love to wait. Everybody loves to wait. But the time is now. People need relief.”
The current minimum wage is $7.25, the same as the federal minimum.
Feb 28th - 10:22 pm
Multiple sources tell YNN that New York State Assemblyman Bill Reilich is running for Greece Town Supervisor. A formal announcement is expected Friday.
Our camera and reporter were kept outside of a meeting of the Greece Republican Committee Thursday Night. The meeting was held to designate candidates for the November elections.
Reilich and current Supervisor John Auberger were in attendance. Both left without talking to the media. Soon after the closed door meeting ended, a press advisory was sent out announcing Reilich would make “an important announcement regarding this year’s elections in the Town of Greece.”
The announcement will take place Friday at 10:30 a.m. at the Greece Town Hall. Term limits prevent Auberger from running again. He did not return our calls Thursday night.
Reilich, who is also the chair of the Monroe County Republican Committee, could not be reached for comment Thursday Night. Reilich was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1992. His 134th Assembly seat covers the towns of Greece, Spencerport, and Hilton.
Feb 27th - 5:09 pm
The Democratic-led Assembly is projecting an extra $484 million more in revenue than Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $142.6 billion budget proposal lays out in its revenue forecast report released today.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said as much in a scrum with reporters earlier today that the revenue projections would be higher than forecast by Cuomo’s Division of Budget.
What’s this mean in the context of the budget fight in the coming weeks?
Look for Assembly lawmakers to push for the restoration in all manner of cuts, possibly member items, proposed by Cuomo’s spending plan.
Silver ruled out member items as one allocation for the funds, but did suggest that cuts in programs for the developmentally disabled should be considered.
Here’s the report:
Feb 27th - 4:59 pm
Lawmakers are back at the state Capitol today from an extended mid-winter break as a push for an early budget is underway.
And the signal that the budget dance was beginning in earnest was the four-men-in-a-room meeting between Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sens. Jeff Klein and Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
A variety of outstanding issues remain as hurdles to passing the spending plan by April 1, the start of the fiscal year, but so far there has not been overt signal that the more contentious items including an increase in the state’s minimum wage or a plan to site casinos.
Assembly Democrats want a restoration of aid to New York City schools, while Senate Republicans are pushing for the end of a surcharge on the 18a utility assessment
The leaders meeting by all accounts seems to have been a temperature-taking effort by Cuomo and one to work out the logistics of passing his proposed $142.6 billion spending plan.
Though disagreement continues on whether the minimum wage should be increased to either $8.75 or $9 with a tie to inflation, it is apparent that Senate Republicans would need some form of a tax credit or tax cut if a vote is allowed.
But Skelos, in a governing majority with five independent Senate Democrats, insisted there was no effort to package the wage hike with a tax cut.
“I’m not looking to tie anything together,” Skelos said. “We still haven’t made a decision as to whether expanding the minimum wage is doing to be counterproductive to job creation. I know I’ve mentioned the training wage and certain issues concerning waiters and other things. We’re going to discuss it and see if it’s doable.”
Silver, meanwhile, indicated that he was not open to taking the 18a assessment surcharge out of the budget plan, noting the revenue hit the state would take.
“I don’t believe we can afford the $500 million that may be involved in it,” he said.
He suggested after the meeting with Cuomo and the Senate leaders there could more revenue than expected.
“We believe there will be some more revenue, probably $00 million We have a lot of restorations to make generally and we’ll see how it works,” he said.
He added, “All of these issues — what’s important is the agreement. “When you pass it is secondary.”
Klein, meanwhile, said he was still pushing for the minimum wage increase as part of the budget, but hedged on whether it should be tied to inflation — a position he supports — or if the wage should grow to $9.
“I think the most important thing is that we increase the minimum wage,” he said.
Perhaps the most contentious power struggle remains over where casinos should be placed. Cuomo supports building three casinos north of the New York City metropolitan region, while lawmakers have said they want a greater say in where they are built.
Cuomo wants the siting to be up to a gaming commission whose members he appoints.
“The only thing we have an agreement on right now is that the commission will pick the vendors,” Klein said. “We have to see who has a say in the siting, whether or not we do all seven in the amendment, but that all has to be discussed.”
Feb 27th - 9:11 am
The Daily Show last night led off with the controversy over Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s blackface costume, dubbing the Brooklyn Democrat “Crazy Stupid Dov.”
In the bit, Stewart began by noting Hikind, an Orthodox Jew, has taken offense over anti-semitism in popular media, but didn’t seem to find anything wrong with his Purim costume as a “basketball player.”
“Not that it really matters, but that is some poorly done blackface,” Stewart said.
After issuing a sort-of apology, Hikind went further yesterday and apologized on his blog.
Feb 26th - 10:38 am
Assemblyman Dov Hikind today apologized on his blog after a firestorm of criticism for dressing in blackface at a Purim party over the weekend.
“I am sincerely sorry that I have hurt anyone,” Hikind wrote. “I apologize for the pain that I have caused anyone by this incident, and by any remarks that I have made in connection with it. It genuinely pains me that I have pained any human being. That’s not who I am, not who I want to be. I sincerely hope that this note will soothe any hurt feelings.”
Hikind complained on his blog that the complaints over the blackface costume amounted to political correctness run amok.
But fellow Democrats in the Assembly and running for New York City mayor lambasted Hikind for the costume and the non-apology.
Assemblyman Debroah Glick took to Twitter to call him “an ass.” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver released a statement saying the costume was “inapprorpriate and offensive.” And a post on Gawker called him a “racist clown.”
After a news conference in which Hikind sort-of apologized, his apology today is far more full-throated.
“My initial reaction in learning of this was one of shock because my intention was never to hurt or make fun of anyone,” he wrote. “Those who know me—in politics and in my personal life—already know this. But others who don’t know me have expressed hurt and outrage, so I am writing to address that once and for all. Unintentional as they were, I recognize now that the connotations of my Purim costume were deeply offensive to many.”
Feb 25th - 12:02 pm
Typically that is not a headline anyone in public life wants.
But Assemblyman Dov Hikind is defending on his blog the choice of going as a “basketball player” complete with black face paint at a Purim party at his Brooklyn home.
This morning Hikind, one of the more conservative Democrats in the large majority conference in the Assembly, says the costume is a non-issue and that he does “not have a prejudice bone in his body.”
“Everywhere that Purim was being celebrated, people wore costumes. It was Purim. People dress up,” he wrote.
The picture was first reported by The Observer’s Politicker NY blog.
He also complained the reaction to the photo, posted on Facebook, has been overblow.
“I am intrigued that anyone who understands Purim — or for that matter understands me — would have a problem with this,” he wrote. “This is political correctness to the absurd.”
Feb 15th - 11:43 am
ICYMI: From today’s morning memo:
Thanks to President Obama, New York’s fight over raising the minimum wage just became a whole lot more complicated.
During his State of the Union address Tuesday night, the president proposed hiking the federal hourly wage form $7.25 to $9 an hour by 2015, which just so happens to be 25 cents higher than what Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed.
(For the record: It’s also 50 cents LESS than candidate Obama proposed back in 2008).
Adding insult to injury, Obama also called in his speech for indexing the minimum wage to inflation, which would trigger automatic future increases and take this controversial political football out of play indefinitely.
Indexing is something New York Democrats have been pushing very hard. But, much to their chagrin, it was not included in the minimum wage proposal Cuomo inserted into his 2013-14 spending plan.
Not surprisingly, players on both sides of the New York debate rushed to capitalize on Obama’s proposal.
Senate Republicans, who have been dragging their feet on this issue in hopes that something – anything – might come along to halt what seemed to be the inevitable wage hike here in New York, immediately recognized the political cover the Democratic president’s plan might provide them.
“Since New York’s minimum wage is tied to the federal minimum wage, Sen. Skelos agrees with the governor that it should be set at the federal level,” said Scott Reif, spokesman for Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos.
“In light of President Obama’s proposal and our intention to keep New York businesses from being put at a competitive disadvantage, it may be best to wait and see what the federal government does before the state acts.”
Democrats in the Senate and Assembly also cheered Obama’s plan, recognizing the potential for increasing the pressure on Cuomo to reconsider indexing.