ALBANY – Lawmakers are narrowing in on a final state budget deal to raise the state’s $7.25-per-hour minimum wage to $9 over the next three years and cut personal and business taxes by $700 million, including a reduction in assessments on utility bills.
The sides failed, though, in a bid to announce a 2013 budget deal by Monday night, as a host of final issues kept Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders holding out for a final agreement maybe sometime today.
Even with a handshake deal, lawyers and fiscal staffs would still need to navigate through final provisions in the thousands of pages of budget bills, a process that can take its own twists and turns in a building where trust is a sometimes elusive commodity.
The tentative deal for a minimum wage hike would increase the current wage to $8 next January, followed by a hike of 75 cents the following year and then to $9 by January 2016.
It would not include, as some lawmakers had sought over the objection of business groups, automatic increases every year into the future based on the inflation rate. And it would also not seek to exclude young workers under age 20 from getting the increase, which was a plan floated by Senate Republicans.
Advocates for the minimum wage said the emerging plan would be worth about $1 billion less to workers during the period than a proposal by the Assembly Democrats.
“Nobody said I signed off on any plan,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, after emerging from closed-door talks Monday night with Cuomo and lawmakers. “But, realistically, if we can get a minimum wage that ends at $9 in two years I think we’ve done a tremendous service.”
In return for the wage increase, Senate Republicans have demanded a tax-cut package to help soothe the objections of business groups to the higher minimum wage.
Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, pegged the tax-cut package at about $700 million. He declined to elaborate on details.
But sources close to the talks said officials are looking at reducing a state surcharge on utilities, which pass along the tax to consumers, as well as a possible rebate check system for middle-class families.
Also still on the table is a plan, which lawmakers say Cuomo is promoting in closed-door talks, to extend a higher tax bracket on millionaires.
That tax increase, worth about $2 billion a year, was pushed through in December 2011 after Cuomo had vowed not to hike taxes.
The governor, who, unlike legislative leaders, has not met with reporters in recent days, did not comment Monday.
Still being pushed by Cuomo in budget talks is a measure to relax marijuana possession laws and to restore cuts lawmakers proposed to several of his economic development proposals.