N.Y. Budget Would Pay for Longer School Day, Year


Lives of New Yorkers, from the working poor to millionaires, schoolchildren, teachers, employers, and unemployed war veterans, would be touched under a tentative state budget deal.

The provisions were among some details surfacing Thursday, a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced a “conceptual framework” for a budget. Staff members were working furiously to craft bills that could be voted on in coming days by the Senate and Assembly.

Some advocates for the poor also had a chance to review the centerpiece of the budget deal, an increase in the minimum wage to $9 that would be spread over three years without automatic increases tied to inflation. The $7.25-an-hour wage would rise to $8 in January, $8.75 a year later, and cap at $9 a year after that.

“Eight dollars is morally unacceptable,” said Mark Dunlea of the Hunger Action Network. He called a $9 wage “pathetically low.”

“Lawmakers continue to force the lowest-income workers to work for sub-poverty wages,” said Dunlea.

Frank Mauro, an analyst with the progressive Fiscal Policy Institute, said the new minimum wage would have to be $11.15 just to return the working poor’s buying power to its 1970 level.

The tentative deal for a New York state budget includes several measures for schools, which will see a bump of nearly $1 billion in the state’s more than $20-billion school aid fund. That’s an increase over the $890-million hike Cuomo proposed before the legislative negotiations took place.

The deal also includes $350 tax rebates in 2014 to middle-class families with at least one child and a household income of $40,000 to $300,000.

The budget deal includes $25 million to expand pre-kindergarten in low-income schools, $25 million to help school districts extend the school day and year, and $15,000 in annual stipends for top teachers.

Tax cuts and credits spread over three years would include a $10,000 credit for hiring a veteran who joined the service since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Hiring a disabled veteran would draw a $15,000 credit.

Many of these tax breaks would be paid for by the second extension of what was to be a temporary income tax increase. Cuomo and legislators agree to extend the $2-billion tax aimed at millionaires, although the Democratic governor and Senate Republicans strongly opposed the measure in their 2010 campaigns as a job killer that added to New York’s image as a high-tax state. They agree to a second extension in this budget, avoiding having to extend the tax when it expires next year, an election year for Cuomo and lawmakers.

Other provisions released Thursday include a new marketing program to promote tourism, produce and New York-made foods.

Tax cuts would be provided to employers hiring recent veterans or young workers, and to small businesses in one of the nation’s highest-taxed states.

State spending would rise less than 2 percent under the plan, expected to be voted on by the Senate and Assembly by the end of Sunday. The total budget, including one-time federal funds for relief from Superstorm Sandy, is about $143 billion.