- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Negotiations over New York’s next state budget heated up Monday as the state Assembly and Senate endorsed competing spending plans that differ when it comes to taxes, education spending and the minimum wage.

The budget proposals backed by both chambers establish negotiating positions for talks with Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo over a budget compromise, which all sides hope to approve by April 1.

The Republican-led Senate plan includes a middle-class income tax cut that would reduce taxes by $3.5 billion when fully implemented in 2025. It also contains $1.7 billion in new funding for schools and $167 million to fight heroin and opioid addiction, which lawmakers say is an increasing problem in urban, suburban and rural areas alike.

“No matter where you hail from this is a huge, huge problem in the state of New York,” said Senate Leader John Flanagan, R-Long Island.

Unlike the Assembly, the Senate plan does not contain Cuomo’s proposal to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 by the end of 2018 in New York City and by July 2021 elsewhere in the state. Instead, the Senate budget proposal calls for an economic analysis of the need and impact of such an increase before it’s considered.

The Assembly budgeted $200 million for nonprofits to fund minimum wage increases in the first year for caregivers of the disabled, mentally ill, addicted, elderly and other New Yorkers. Its proposal would include Long Island and Westchester County with New York City, where increases to $15 would occur in three years instead of five.

Initial increases from the current $9 an hour to $10.50 in the New York metropolitan area and to $9.75 elsewhere would occur July 1.

The Assembly would raise income taxes on millionaires, with the top rate rising 1 percent to 9.82 percent.

Both chambers agreed, however, when it came to allowing workers to take paid time off from work to care for a new child or a sick loved one. Along with a $15 minimum wage increase, paid family leave is one of Cuomo’s top priorities for the year.

Neither chamber included ethics reform in their budget proposals, though Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said the Assembly would consider restricting lawmakers’ outside income and closing the so-called LLC loophole, which allows limited liability companies to skirt campaign finance limits placed on other businesses while shielding the identities of the donors.

“The budget misses a crucial opportunity and does not deal with any ethics reforms,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers. “We need to take concrete steps to restore trust in our state government.”

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