Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told Long Island business leaders Friday that passage of a phased-in $15 minimum wage in the state budget was a “compromise” extracted in exchange for increased regional school aid, middle-class tax cuts and a freeze on SUNY and CUNY tuition.
Flanagan (R-East Northport) also conceded Republicans face an “uphill battle” in trying to upend an apparent Democratic victory in the special election to replace ex-Sen. Dean Skelos, though he said the GOP would retain control of the chamber thanks to an alliance with breakaway Democrats.
He also knocked the “level of discourse” in the presidential campaign while refusing to endorse any candidate.
Flanagan spoke to the Long Island Association in Melville.
Flanagan previously has expressed reservations about hiking the minimum wage, but he said Republicans had few options because Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was prepared to impose the increase through a state wage board.
“Had we not come to a compromise and taken appropriate action, the governor would have gone out and done this on his own,” Flanagan said, referring to Cuomo’s tactics to increase the wage for fast-food workers in 2015.
On Long Island and in Westchester County, the minimum wage will rise from $9 to $15 by Dec. 31, 2021. In New York City, the pay raise will go into effect over three years. Upstate, the minimum wage will rise to $12.50 by 2020, with the potential for further increases.
Many business leaders — including LIA members — opposed the increase, arguing it would lead to massive job cuts.
Flanagan defended the overall budget deal, arguing that Republicans were able to secure an extra $155 million in state operating aid for Long Island schools and a tax cut for households earning up to $300,000.
Flanagan said it would take an “uphill battle” for the GOP to win the 9th Senate District seat, which Skelos vacated after his conviction on federal corruption charges. Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son, Adam, who also was convicted, are appealing.
Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) leads Republican Chris McGrath by 780 votes, with nearly 3,000 absentee ballots still to be counted.
McGrath has not conceded.
Republicans hold 31 of the 63 Senate seats but control the chamber thanks to a governing coalition with six breakaway Democrats, including Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, who sits with the GOP conference.
No matter the outcome of the special election, Flanagan said Republicans would continue to work with the Independent Democratic Conference because keeping GOP control of the chamber is “pivotal for Long Island.”
Flanagan, who will serve as a delegate at the Republican national convention in Cleveland in July, said it would be “inappropriate” to endorse a presidential candidate because of his position as majority leader. The Republican candidates are businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Flanagan, however, said he was “disappointed in the level of discourse” in the campaign and said “the way people are speaking is not good for the country.”