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Tax breaks costing more than first projected

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The tab for taxpayers to give a $350 tax break to some middle class taxpayers and to cover part of the higher payroll costs for businesses under the new minimum wage hike program is rising to levels higher than predicted by state officials last week.

The $350 tax break -- in the form of well-timed checks delivered to a million or so taxpayers just before the November 2014 election day that will feature Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers on the ballots -- is now projected to cost the state $410 million annually. That is up from the $350 million to $375 million officials estimated a week ago.

That tax break will go to households with at least one dependent child and adjusted gross incomes between $40,000 and $300,000. Critics have questioned the logic behind defining a family making $300,000 as middle class, and say the plan discriminates against couples without children and lower income families.

The state-funded minimum wage subsidy will go to businesses to cover the difference when the wage goes from $7.25 to $8 per hour in January. The 75 cents per hour subsidy will cover the costs for businesses that employ 16 to 19 year olds who are students, though the budget bill does not define "student.'' When the wage is raised to $9 in January 2016, the state will pay businesses $1.35 per hour per employee for every one one of those eligible workers. Backers say it will help smooth the costs for employers to avoid worker layoffs; critics say it is an unfair subsidy that will encourage companies to hire teens over workers age 20 and above, including senior citizens who can't afford to live just on Social Security.

The minimum wage tax subsidy was to cost about $45 million per year to the state, officials said last week a day before the Assembly returned to Albany to pass the final round of budget bills. New numbers from the Cuomo administration now shows the subsidy will cost $35 million in the 2015 tax year and then average $65 million in each of the following three years.

Both measures were contained in the 2013 state budget approved last week.

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