Once again this year, Governor Cuomo broke with tradition and combined the annual State of the State with the Executive Budget Address and delivered one speech to the New York State Legislature. And once again this year, the Governor’s proposals are a mixed bag for Buffalo Niagara employers.
The Partnership is keeping a close eye on several items outlined by the Governor, including:
Transportation Infrastructure: Partnership members continue to identify the lack of resources to adequately address our infrastructure needs as a major impediment to economic growth and investment in Buffalo Niagara. The Partnership is a member of the Rebuild NY Now coalition to ensure the Governor and Legislature restore parity – equal funding, dollar for dollar – between the capital budgets of Department of Transportation (DOT) and the downstate Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). The executive budget proposes funding DOT’s capital program at $6 billion less than the MTA’s program. Parity between the DOT and MTA had been the norm until 2010. The Governor is proposing investments in the Thruway and freezing tolls until 2020.
The Partnership is also pushing for Western New York to receive its ‘fair share’ of transportation infrastructure funding. Our region receives less than 9% of statewide DOT funding, but we are home to a higher percentage of state and locally owned roads and bridges.
$15 Minimum Wage: As expected, the Governor used his budget address to rally support for his proposal to raise New York’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. The Governor focused his remarks on big corporations’ failure to pay employees a fair wage. The problem – as the Governor knows – is that big corporations are far better positioned than small businesses to absorb this massive wage increase. This proposal also has consequences far beyond those currently making minimum wage. An increase of this size and scope will force a fundamental shift of the wage scale, putting immense pressure on employers who pay well in excess of the current $9 minimum wage. The Partnership is strongly opposed to a $15 minimum wage and will continue to push back on this proposal through our active participation in the Minimum Wage Reality Check coalition.
Small Business Tax Cuts: In any other year, the Governor’s small business tax cut proposals would have been widely applauded. The excitement begins to fade, however, when the proposals are put in context with the potential of a $15 minimum wage. As the Partnership has long advocated, the Governor is pushing to extend tax relief to small businesses filing via the personal income tax by increasing and expanding a tax break now limited to sole proprietorships.
Paid Family Leave: The Governor also made an appeal for New York to adopt the Paid Family Leave Act which would provide 12-weeks of job-protected, employee-funded paid leave through payroll deductions. Employers have a right to be concerned about the administrative costs of such a program, especially since the Governor’s proposal does not exempt small companies like the Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does. While the goal of Paid Family Leave is noble, this is yet another mandate forced on New York’s employers in a state that is already ranked as the highest taxed and overly regulated in the country.
The Partnership will continue to monitor the budget process closely, and advocate for our members and Buffalo Niagara employers.