STATE BUDGET BRIEFING/1
By JIM KEVLIN • for www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Businesspeople and elected officials peppered state Veterans Affairs Director Eric Hesse with critical questions about the prospective minimum-wage hike and other issues contained in the 2016-17 state budget when he appeared here this morning on Governor Cuomo’s behalf.
“Why has the state exempted state workers?” asked county Board Chair Kathy Clark, R-Otego, to approving murmurs from a crowd of about 100 in the upstairs theater at Foothills Performing Arts Center. (She didn’t get an answer.)
As has been Cuomo’s practice in recent years, Hesse is one of a number of ranking administration officials sent fanning across the state after budget approval to deliver the governor’s talking points in person. The state budget was approved March 31, on time for the sixth year in a row.
The minimum-wage hike – to $12.75 over five years Upstate, and to $15 next year in the New York metropolitan area.
But questioners made it clear that raising the minimum in New York when it doesn’t rise in surrounding states puts a burden on local companies.
“Did people really think about the impact?” asked Rebecca Lloyd, vice president of Oneonta Block and its related companies. The companies in-state suppliers, she continued, can’t compete with out-of-state suppliers.
“For anyone doing business out of state, it takes them out of the competition,” said Terry Lifgren, president/CEO of Astrocom Electronics.
Republican John Salka, the Madison County supervisor who is running against Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, voiced particular concern about farmers, who are already having to cope with rising prices as milk-price supports remain static.
In his part of the program, Hesse ran though a PowerPoint from the governor’s office, which cited the minimum-wage hike as one of several highpoint in the budget, which included:
- Paid family leave, up to 12 weeks per year, to be paid by employees through a $1 contribution from their paychecks. He said 161,000 workers in the Mohawk Valley Economic Development Region, which includes Otsego County, will be elegible.
- A middle-class tax cut. He said, on average, income-tax payers will see a $613 drop.
- State aid to schools is up $6.5 million, or $500 million in the Mohawk Valley region.
- And $500 million is being made available for broadband.