Updated 03/11/2013 10:39 PM
Albany Supports Higher Minimum Wage, But Definite Number Remains Unclear
Albany lawmakers are still on track to pass one of the earliest state budgets in years, as both the state Senate and Assembly passed one-house budgets on Monday, and while both houses seem open to including a minimum wage increase in the budget, a final agreement is far from certain. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
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After weeks of lawmakers hedging their bets about whether a minimum wage hike would be included in the state budget, it now seems much more likely to happen, after the state Senate and state Assembly have passed one-house budgets.
"The language is very clear. We have in our one-house budget resolution an increase in the minimum wage," said Jeff Klein, the leader of the senate's Independent Democratic Conference. "The increase would start this year, and then subsequent increases would be done over the next two years."
The Democratic-controlled assembly has supported an increase all along, but its fate in the state Senate, which is controlled by a coalition of breakaway Democrats and Republicans, was less certain.
But on Monday, language was included in the senate's version of the budget to increase the minimum wage.
"I said we would consider it. Some have written that I support it. What I said in our budget resolution is I would consider it along with other business tax credits and incentives," said Dean Skelos, the senate Republican conference leader.
Governor Andrew Cuomo hailed the development.
"Yes, that is a sign of progress. That means they are willing to discuss it in the budget. Now the problem is we all have different minimum wage numbers, so that's what has to be reconciled," said Cuomo.
The particulars remained unresolved Monday.
"We started less than two months ago, myself and the speaker have a bill that increased it to $8.50. Then President [Barack] Obama said $9. Before that, Governor Cuomo said $8.75. So we clearly have a lot of numbers," said Klein.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver greeted the senate's news more skeptically.
"The fact is, there's no substance to it," Silver said. "They don't tell you what it is. They don't tell you whether there is indexing or not. So we really have no clue as to what they did."
State leaders are hoping to have a budget agreement by Friday, which means they could start voting in the budget bills by next week. However, there are still some outstanding issues, the details of the minimum wage being one of them.
Another sticking point is the $260 million in state aid cut from the New York City public school budget, which was a consequence of the teacher's union and the Bloomberg administration being unable to agree on a teacher evaluation system by a deadline set by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Assembly Democrats want the educational aid restored, and the courts have ruled in favor of that, but the governor does not want that to happen.