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$9 minimum wage would phase in over 3 years

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo presents his

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo presents his fiscal 2014 budget proposal in Albany. (Jan. 22, 2013) Credit: AP

ALBANY -- New York's minimum wage would rise to $9 per hour over a three-year phase-in under a budget deal being discussed at the State Capitol, officials said Monday.

In exchange, the budget would contain $700 million in tax cuts favored by Republicans. The package would provide tax credits for small businesses that hire some teenage employees to help offset the wage hike, legislators said.

Lawmakers said the deal is likely to include legislation governing marijuana and "stop and frisk" policies by the NYPD; restoration of a specific type of school aid that is key for some Long Island districts; and an extension of the so-called millionaires' tax. Lawmakers said there's a push to renew the tax this year rather than wait till it's set to expire in 2014, an election year.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders are trying to reach accord on a $142 billion spending plan by Tuesday, so the legislature can pass it by Friday. The legislature is slated to begin its Passover-Easter recess next week. Members bargained for nearly four hours Sunday night, then met three times Monday to settle final differences. They said an agreement was likely Tuesday.

Minimum wage and business tax cuts are among the remaining high-profile items. Lawmakers are discussing raising the minimum wage, currently $7.25 per hour, in a series of steps. It would jump to $8 per hour in 2014 and eventually go to $9 an hour in 2016, lawmakers said. Hiking the minimum wage has been a priority for Democrats -- who brushed off criticism from liberal groups that a phased-in raise wasn't good enough.

"If we can get a minimum wage that ends at $9 [per hour] in two years, we've done a tremendous service," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan).

Republicans, who have argued that a wage hike would prompt layoffs, have been pushing for a variety of tax cuts and tax credits for small businesses affected by a higher wage. They've also advocated a "training wage," or sub-minimum wage for youths for a short transition period -- also, they said, to avoid layoffs.

Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said the budget would include at least $700 million in tax cuts and tax credits, but declined to spell them out.

Among the GOP's priorities: a partial rollback of a Metropolitan Transportation Authority surcharge on businesses, a phaseout of a utility surcharge (called 18-a) that was a temporary tax imposed in 2009, and a range of child-care and dependent-care credits. Cuomo didn't comment Monday.Lawmakers are also discussing a renewal of the so-called millionaires' tax. Enacted in December 2011, the new tax code raised rates on joint filers earning more than $2 million and singles earning more than $1 million, generating $1.9 billion in state revenue. It reduced rates for low earners and a large portion of the middle class. It is set to expire in 2014 -- when Cuomo and all 213 legislators are up for re-election.

An influential business group -- the Partnership for New York City, a key Cuomo ally during his first two years in office -- strongly opposed renewal of the millionaires' tax.

School aid -- a perennial State Capitol battle -- still isn't quite settled either. Among the issues, legislators want to block a Cuomo-proposed cut of $50 million in a special category of school funding called High Tax Aid. If not restored, Long Island districts would lose about $34 million, legislators said.

Cuomo has proposed decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana as a way to reform NYPD "stop and frisk" policies. The governor and some legislators say too often minorities are charged with misdemeanors for "displaying" marijuana in public after a police officer has ordered them to empty their pockets.

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