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Business tax cut bill pushed in Albany amid minimum wage debate

Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos has introduced a business tax cut program he says will create thousands of new private-sector jobs -- and could be the Albany-style linkage that Assembly Democrats might use to get a minimum wage hike through the Senate.

With the state budget already done and the new bill likely costing hundreds of millions of dollars, it would be unusual for the Legislature to give final approval to such a measure two months into a new fiscal year. But its introduction comes as Assembly Democrats have made the minimum wage hike bill one of their top priorities before the session ends.

The "2012 New Jobs -- NY Job Creation Act" would give tax breaks to everyone from small businesses, beer brewers and film companies to certain firms and individuals investing in businesses and energy companies.

When fully implemented, the Skelos package would total about $1 billion annually in various tax breaks.

The Senate plans to take up the bill next week.

Whether it could prove to be trading material for the chief legislative priority of the Assembly Democrats -- a hike in the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour -- won't be known until the session ends next month. Senate Republicans are opposing the minimum wage bill.

The Senate measure comes as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday told a radio station that a minimum wage hike this session is not "in the realm of possibility."

The chief proponent of the wage hike, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, responded: "He's a great governor. I'm not sure he's a great prognosticator."

Cuomo has said he backs the idea of a minimum wage hike, while Senate Republicans have said such a raise would force employers to lay off workers.

Silver said Cuomo has not said to him in private that the wage hike is dead for this session. "I think he's doing what he can," Silver said when asked if Cuomo was doing enough to promote the minimum wage legislation.

Advocates, meanwhile, were pushing Cuomo to use his administrative powers to implement a wage hike if the Legislature does not act. Officials with the Cuomo administration, as well as Silver, said they did not know if the governor has such authority.

The Senate GOP business tax package includes a provision to give employers a tax credit of up to $5,000 for each new worker hired for one year; if the new hire had been unemployed, the tax credit would rise to $8,000.

Overall, according to a memo accompanying the Skelos bill introduced Friday, the proposal would reduce taxes by 20 percent for small businesses, which are defined as having business incomes under $250,000 and filing business taxes under their personal income taxes.

Parts of the bill by Skelos, a Long Island Republican, would not take effect this year. The Skelos bill, for instance, proposes to eliminate certain state taxes on manufacturing companies over a three-year period. The tax break for manufacturers has different components depending on the year, such as its application for firms with 100 or fewer employees and gross income of under $1 million.

Beer brewers would get a tax credit on the first 200,000 barrels produced in New York State, while film companies would see a tax credit rise from 10 percent to 30 percent for postproduction film work done in the state.

The legislation also proposes a $7 million pool for "angel investors" and additional tax breaks for investments in New York companies. It also would end a four-year "conservation assessment" on public utility companies a year early, in 2013.

A memo accompanying the new bill says, "This comprehensive bill will help create thousands of new private-sector jobs by delivering tax relief to small businesses and manufacturers, reducing energy costs and enacting major fiscal reforms to make New York State more economically competitive."