April 4, 2016
By Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon
Albany, NY – The legislature passed the budget, with some notable highlights that I'm proud to share with you. First, I am proud that the enacted budget is consistent with our desire Assembly Majority has advocated to put our families first and invest in their future success, and for investments and policies that support workers and enable them to climb the ladder of economic opportunity.
We raised the minimum wage. New York’s new minimum wage levels are historic. The minimum wage gradually increases over the years with a quicker implementation in New York City and downstate counties where the cost of living is higher. For example, the hourly wage would be increased for workers in New York City employed by large businesses having 11 employees or more, to $11 at the end of 2016, then by $2 each year thereafter, to reach $15 by 2018. For those workers employed by small businesses having fewer than 10 workers within the City of New York, the minimum wage would rise to $10.50 by the end of 2016, with additional annual increases of $1.50 each year thereafter, to reach $15 by 2019. For workers in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties, the enacted budget would raise the minimum wage to $10 by the end of 2016, then by an additional $1 each year until reaching $15 an hour by 2021. In the upstate regions, the minimum wage would increase to $9.70 at the end of 2016, and continue doing so until 2020 after which it will be indexed.
We passed the most progressive paid family leave bill in the country. It will gradually provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave benefits for workers who have been employed for at least six-months, to care for an infant, a family member with a serious health condition or to ease the burden placed on families when earners are called into active military service.
While we were not able to fully fund the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE), we eliminated the regressive Gap Elimination Adjustment and provided more funding for educational foundation aid than ever before with significant funds to convert struggling schools to community schools. We also put $20 million to the My Brother’s Keeper initiative which was established by President Obama to address the enduring opportunity gaps faced by males of color.
There will be no tuition hike for New York’s public colleges. We increased Tuition Assistance and educational opportunity programs, increased funding for capital investments and fought back against the unprecedented effort to shift the state’s obligations to the CUNY system and Medicaid to New York City. I am proud to have worked hard on this effort.
We also increased funding for water and sewer infrastructure throughout the state and a significant capital housing plan.
We provided new funding to assist in providing much needed services to those who are among the growing population experiencing heroin and opioid abuse.
Last but not least, we successfully fought to fund the MTA’s $27 billion capital plan, added $1 billion for the next leg of the Second Avenue subway, ensuring that New York City’s transit riders will be able to commute safely and on time.
There were some disappointments as well, of ocurse. New York has as yet to be able to raise the age of criminal liability (we are only one of 3 states who hasn’t done so) or pass the DREAM Act or the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), or close the LLC Loophole. While I have been proud to vote for these bills in the Assembly, we need the Senate to make it happen and we will continue to fight to make sure that happens.