ALBANY – Lawmakers are in a holding pattern as final details of the more than $142 million state budget are still under negotiation, including business tax breaks and how to give lawmakers a greater say in economic development appropriations.
Lawmakers are due to come back Saturday – though it could be later on Sunday in deference to the Palm Sunday religious observance – to begin passing budget bills. They may not finish their work until Monday.
Some details are already well established, such as a $350-per-household rebate check – not available until election year in 2014 – for filers with at least one child under age 18 and with household incomes between $40,000 and $300,000. An estimated 66,000 families will get the check in Erie County.
But how much individual schools will get as a piece of the $21 billion or so the state will spend on 700 districts next year won’t be known for days.
One early winner is the University at Buffalo Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics, a new research facility that will see its state funding rise from $200,000 to $500,000. The facility on the North Campus in Amherst has about 50 faculty members engaged in its work, which seeks to develop materials for an array of products from better-insulated windows to devices to detect cancer.
“Not only does this put the University at Buffalo on a unique path, but it is also aimed at addressing a worldwide shortage of rare-earth elements,’’ said Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, a Kenmore Democrat.
The minimum wage will rise from the present $7.25 to $9 per hour by January 2016.
Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Nassau County Republican, said a slowly improving economy and tax breaks to help businesses cover the costs of a minimum-wage hike led his GOP Senate to drop its long-held opposition to the wage increase. The deal gives tax deductions for employers with teenage workers covered by the hike and will not apply to workers who make tips. Asked the theory behind government subsidizing the payrolls of employers with teenage workers affected by the rate increase, Skelos told The Buffalo News: “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.’’
Most of the tax breaks won’t happen until the 2014 fiscal year, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and lawmakers are up for re-election.
Why, if the need is so great, are the tax breaks not kicking in now? “You have to do it responsibly … We just have to be careful that we don’t have slippage, that we don’t run a huge deficit in the upcoming year,’’ Skelos said.
Skelos said lawmakers and the Governor’s Office still are discussing business tax breaks, so it is uncertain how much will be available in programs for small business and manufacturing.
He said the sides are 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. Lawmakers have said the state’s regional councils have come to serve as partial pork barrel pots for Cuomo to hand out. Skelos said there should be more legislative input as to how regional councils spend money in the 10 regions.
“I think the governor will be respectful of our opinions. I don’t believe anything is going to be ironclad language that says you have to do this or you have to do that,’’ he said.