By Tom Precious
ALBANY – The Senate’s top Republican said a slowly improving economy and tax breaks for businesses changed his long-held view that the state’s minimum wage should not be raised.
Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Nassau County Republican, noted that businesses will get a tax deduction to cover the costs associated for their teenage employees who will see the wage going from $7.25 to $8 per hour in January and then to $9 by January 2016. (How much that funding pot will total has not been resolved.)
Skelos said tips workers will also see their wages held flat. Between not hiking the pay of tips workers and having the state give tax breaks to companies with teenage workers, Skelos said about 40 percent of employees at the minimum wage level will end up affecting the payroll expenses of their employers because of the minimum wage deal.
Asked the theory behind government subsidizing the payrolls of employers with teenage workers affected by the rate increase, Skelos said, “We wanted to have a youth wage, which would have made sure young people get 85 percent of the minimum wage, which was supported by many in the industry. The Assembly didn’t want to do it, so we came up with an alternative to make sure young people have the opportunities to get jobs and businesses are protected.’’
Skelos said a number of new business taxes -– affecting small companies, manufacturers and others – will benefit from the budget deal tentatively announced Wednesday night. But Skelos, in an interview with The Buffalo News Thursday afternoon, acknowledged the tax deals are still not closed down. He said the sides have agreed that a tax rebate program – giving $350 checks to households with incomes between $40,000 and $300,000 and with at least one child between birth and age 18 – will cost $375 million. He said a utility tax surcharge that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wanted to extend for five more years will be extended for three years and be cut by 25 percent next year.
But as for the specifics on all the tax cuts? “Now we’re working through the numbers on the business tax credit and manufacturers,’’ he said.
Skelos said the sides are also still discussing a topic raised by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who earlier this week said Cuomo has too much control over how economic development funds are spent in communities. Skelos said there should be more legislative input in how regional councils spend money in the 10 different regions.
How will that be resolved in the budget? “I think the governor will be respectful of our opinions. I don’t believe anything is going to be iron-clad language that says you have to do this or you have to do that. I think he understands that there should be more involvement of the Legislature and I think we’re going to work that out,’’ Skelos said.