New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders announced an agreement on the 2016-17 state budget on March 31. The budget holds the growth in state spending to 2 percent for the sixth consecutive year, continuing to reverse a decades-long trend where state spending outpaced the rate of inflation or personal incomes. The budget includes a number of policies aimed at the working and middle class families, including education aid ($24.8 billion), middle class tax cuts ($4.2 billion, when fully effective), and statewide infrastructure investments, as well as minimum wage increases and paid family leave, according to the announcement. Minimum Wage. For workers in New York City employed by large businesses 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 December 31, 2018. For workers in New York City employed by small businesses 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 December 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 December 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 $0.70 each year after until reaching $12.50 on December 31, 2020—after which the minimum wage 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. Safety valve. The bill provides a safety valve to the increases. Beginning in 2019, the state DOB Director will conduct an annual analysis of the economy in each region and the effect of the minimum wage increases statewide to determine whether a temporary suspension of the scheduled increases is necessary. That analysis is submitted to the Department of Labor by the Division of Budget. 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 what is reportedly 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 so it costs businesses—both big and small—nothing. Employees are eligible to participate after having worked for their employer for six months.
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