By Bill Parry
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation enacting a statewide $15 minimum wage plan and a 12-week paid family leave policy Monday morning before appearing at a celebratory rally of more than 1,000 workers, labor leaders, advocates and elected officials at the Javits Center.
As Cuomo took the stage, accompanied by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who called the signing “a great day for our state,” the governor proceeded to deliver a progressive victory speech that evoked memories of his father Mario’s demand for economic justice.
“Productivity has gone up 70 percent. Workers’ wages have only gone up 9 percent,” Cuomo said. “Top 1 percent has gone up 138 percent at the same time. That’s not right, it’s not fair and we won’t let it stand in the state of New York.”
The law gradually raises the minimum wage to $15 in New York City by the end of 2018. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who did not attend the governor’s rally, issued a statement after the state budget agreement was announced Friday.
“Progressive policies we’ve championed and implemented in New York City for our workforce, like paid leave and a higher minimum wage, will now take hold on a statewide scale,” de Blasio said. “And I congratulate Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature for their great commitment to these changes, which will pull hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers into greater economic security.”
The mayor heaped praise on Council Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and the state Assembly Democratic Conference for “doggedly defending the people of New York City” during months of negotiations.
“Critically, New York City will not face the damaging cuts and cost shifts proposed earlier this winter,” de Blasio said. “Because proposals to put hundreds of millions of dollars of state liabilities for CUNY and Medicaid on the city were averted, we can maintain vital programs and protect the city against future economic turmoil.”
The budget increases school aid by nearly $1.5 billion; supports improvements to mass transportation with a $27 billion investment in the MTA’s capital plan; ensures state support for New York City’s Medicaid costs; maintains support for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, which allow seniors to stay in their homes as they age; and provides a tax exemption for a clean energy source—fuel cells—which was first proposed in a bill by Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria).
“This is an historic budget that puts funding right where it needs to be—helping working families who struggle to achieve brighter futures and good education for their children,” Simotas said. “This budget uses tax dollars wisely, compassionately, and comprehensively by increasing the minimum wage, providing paid family leave and investing more in education.”
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City) first introduced a bill on paid family leave in 1997. Since then the Assembly has passed various versions of this legislation eight times.
“Families are the foundation of our society,” Nolan said. “After having sponsored and passed similar versions of this legislation for over 15 years in the Assembly, I am thrilled that we were able to make it a reality.”
The final budget also includes $1 billion in tax relief for households and individual filers earning between $26,000 to $300,000 that will make New York more affordable for the middle class.
“Middle-class people, working family people are angry and it’s not a feeling, it’s the facts,” Cuomo said. “They should be angry because the truth is in this economy, they have been going backwards for decades and this new economy is not a fair economy for the working families and the middle class of this country.”
Cuomo praised Democrats and Republicans, the Assembly and Senate, labor and management for a new plan for the state of New York that is revolutionary.
“Mario Cuomo is looking down on us today and he is smiling today because he is proud of the example this state has set, for the people of this state and the people of this nation,” he said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr