Albany, NY, Mar 14, 2013 — Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders continued to meet to try to complete the state budget by next week.
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Legislative leaders were tight lipped as they emerged for the third day in a row from private talks with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"Do you have a recording from yesterday?", joked Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. "Just play it back."
Silver says the governor and leaders are "making progress."
Senate co-leaders Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein also had little to say, usually a sign that negotiations are getting serious. All three leaders say they hope to have agreements by this Friday and budget bills printed and ready for passage on Monday.
Among the remaining areas of contention in the spending plan is whether to include a minimum wage increase, and what amount it should be. Governor Cuomo has sought an increase to $8.75 an hour. The Assembly wants $9 an hour, with automatic increases in future years tied to the rate of inflation. The Senate leadership Coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats is proposing a three year phase in of the minimum wage, with no set amount for the increases. That proposal is a compromise between the Senate GOP, which had reservations about a minimum wage, and the Independent Democratic Conference, which supports a significant increase in the minimum wage.
Proponents of the wage hike are concerned that the measure could ultimately be watered down. Michael Kink, with the Strong Economy for All Coalition, says the Senate should just simply adopt the Assembly's $9 an hour proposal, with indexing for inflation in the future.
"There's really no need to water down the Assembly proposal, and it will hurt the state's economy if we do that," Kink said.
Frank Mauro, with the liberal leaning think tank Fiscal Policy Institute, says a minimum wage increase to $9 an hour, indexed to inflation, would mean over $2100 a year in the worker's pay check by 2018.
"That makes a difference in the income of these low income families," Mauro said.
Governor Cuomo had to break off budget talks on Wednesday to go to Herkimer, where a multiple shooting occurred. But in a news conference on Tuesday, the governor avoided taking sides on any of the various plans, saying the talks on the minimum wage hike had not yet begun.