The State Senate’s top Republican said Wednesday his colleagues could be open to the governor’s push for a $15 minimum wage, but he offered up a number of caveats.
GOP senators want a number of issues to be part of any minimum wage package, including lowering workers compensation and unemployment expenses for business, providing tax breaks for small companies and excluding some kinds of employers from the wage increase mandates, said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan of Long Island.
“All those things have to be a part of the discussions,” he said.
The Senate also is looking to extend the effective date for the $15 minimum wage to beyond 2021, Flanagan said.
“We’re not adverse to it,” he said of a wage hike, “but the details in this instance are extremely important.”
One source said Republicans want the date extended by several years.
Cuomo has made the $15 minimum wage his most visible push as he burnishes his increasing liberal stance on various social issues. California voters this fall will consider a $15 minimum wage, also effective by 2021.
In an interview with The Buffalo News after he left a private meeting with Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Flanagan said the discussions over a wage hike now include the longer phase-in period and certain exemptions for agricultural operations and small businesses.
The Senate, another source said, also is pushing for a built-in “pause” to take effect at some point during the rolling in of a minimum wage increase so state officials can examine the condition of the economy and determine whether the rising wage levels should be temporarily suspended.
There is also talk of trying to add another exception for teenage and seasonal workers.
“I think our members have a lot of concerns about what does this mean for the business community even to stay afloat,” Flanagan said at the Capitol.
The Senate GOP leader said senators “want to give every opportunity for everyone, from the employee side to the business side.”
“Like everything else, we’re trying to strike a balance,” he said of the talks with Cuomo and Heastie.
“I would very clearly say the New York State Senate Republicans have supported increases in the minimum wage in the past, as long as they are vetted and negotiated,” Flanagan said.
The Business Council of New York State on Wednesday issued a warning to lawmakers: “Do no harm.”
It called on lawmakers to reject Cuomo’s paid family leave proposal and to ensure there is parity between downstate transit funding and upstate road and bridge construction spending over the next five years.
Flanagan said it was the Senate Republicans who first pushed the idea of transportation funding parity between the regions and they still insist that the final budget deal include the end this year of the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a relic of the last fiscal crisis that ends up being a funding take-back program by the state with funding for school districts.
“I am confident that those two components will be (in) the final aspects of the negotiated budget,” Flanagan said of the transportation and education programs.
Heastie declined Wednesday to provide much in the way of specifics about the budget talks.