ALBANY – Democrats are resisting efforts by Senate Republicans to permit employers to offer a “training wage” to new workers, mostly teenagers and unskilled employees, instead of forcing them to boost the minimum wage for such workers if the wage floor is hiked.
The issue is among those being discussed in closed-door meetings this afternoon at the Capitol as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders seek to resolve their remaining sticking points before lawmakers return to Albany on Monday.
Senate Republicans have warmed to the idea, after more than a year of opposition, of raising the state’s $7.25 minimum wage, but only if it is linked to tax breaks, including possibly raising the dollar amount for dependent deductions on state income tax filings or boosting the child tax credit. They also envision various business tax breaks as part of the deal.
Also on the table is extending the expiration of a higher income tax bracket, which starts at $1 million for single filer taxpayers, that brings the state about $2 billion a year in revenues. That higher tax bracket, approved in December 2011, is due to expire in 2014, when Cuomo and the Legislature are up for re-election.
The governor is in Albany today, even though his public schedule released by his office last night said he was to be in the “New York City area.”
Sen. Jeff Klein, the co-leader of the Senate, said there is still no deal on the minimum wage hike. But the Bronx Democrat, upon emerging from a session with Cuomo, said there is “an understanding that we have to do the minimum wage.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, said talks are ongoing, but that “a lot of major issues” remain unresolved.
Asked the major sticking point, Silver said, “Time ... We have to conclude, so it’s crunch time.”
Lawmakers are trying to adopt a 2013 budget by this Thursday or Friday. To do so with Cuomo giving the usual three-day aging process for legislation – a process often ignored during the budget deliberations – bills would have to be printed by Tuesday night for a Friday final passage before lawmakers leave Albany for the religious holidays and a spring break.
The halls of the Capitol this afternoon are seeing a steady stream of legislative and administration fiscal staffs. Gone from most is the usual Albany suit, replaced by jeans, T-shirts, sweaters and sneakers as the prolonged talks make sleep the most sought-after commodity for negotiators in the final days.
On the minimum wage issue, the sides are trying to determine common ground for an amount of any hike, whether to phase it in over a few years, and whether it will be indexed for annual hikes based on the inflation rate.