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2016 laws raise minimum wage, lower business taxes

Among the new laws going into effect as

Among the new laws going into effect as 2016 begins is an increase to the state's minimum wage to $9 an hour from $8.75. Hourly wages for fast-food workers in New York City rise to $10.50; it will be $9.75 in the rest of the state. Credit: AP / Mike Groll

ALBANY — Thousands of New Yorkers will get raises effective New Year’s Day, while companies will begin paying lower tax rates.

A bump in the state’s minimum wage and a reduced tax rate for businesses are just two of the new state laws that kick in Jan. 1.

Other new laws will create tougher penalties for human trafficking, strengthen equal pay provisions and ban housing discrimination against domestic violence victims.

As 2016 begins, the state’s minimum wage will increase to $9 an hour from $8.75. Hourly wages for fast-food workers in New York City rise to $10.50; it will be $9.75 in the rest of the state.

The minimum-wage hike was approved in 2013 and was coupled with a tax credit for employers to offset some of the higher labor costs. The Democratic-led Assembly and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo are planning to push for a $15 minimum wage in the legislative session that begins later this month.

Meanwhile, the state business income tax rate will drop to 6.5 percent of a company’s income from 7.1 percent. The change will primarily affect larger enterprises, which pay a total of about $125 million a year under the tax each year, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the state Legislature.

Smaller owner-operator companies and farmers with at least one employee and income of less than $250,000 will get a tax exemption of 5 percent. The exemption began in 2013 and has increased annually.

Veterans also could be in line for tax reductions in some areas. A new law will allow municipalities that offer property tax exemptions for veterans to take into account rising property values, which would mean a bigger benefit to veterans.

Also becoming effective Jan. 1 are a number of laws that originally were linked to — and overshadowed by — the fight over an abortion rights proposal backed by Cuomo.

Once the Democratic governor dropped the abortion proposal from his so-called Women’s Equality Agenda, the other measures won overwhelming partisan support.

They include:

  • A measure creating tougher penalties for human trafficking of young women and men as well as children, which the bill’s co-sponsors say has become a $32-billion-a-year business. Under the measure, sex trafficking will increase to a Class B violent felony with longer prison terms. A new crime of aggravated patronizing of a minor also becomes effective, with penalties equal to those for statutory rape.
  • Legislation aimed at making sure women aren’t paid less than men for the same job.
  • A measure that makes housing discrimination against a victim of domestic violence a misdemeanor.
  • A bill creating a pilot program to allow victims of domestic violence to secure temporary orders of protection through the Internet without having to appear in court.
  • Legislation to extend sexual harassment laws to companies with four or fewer employees.
  • An update of the Breast-feeding Mothers’ Bill of Rights to allow women to take reasonable unpaid breaks at work to pump breast milk up to three years after giving birth.

“These new laws will ensure that opportunities are protected for women just as much as they are for men,” said Sen. Catharine Young (R-Olean).

But the women’s agenda laws lack a key element of Cuomo’s original proposal that would have provided more protection for late-term abortions in New York in the event the U.S. Supreme Court reverses parts of the Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal nationwide.

The provision, which would have put all protections in current federal law into state law, was opposed by Senate Republicans.

With Yancey Roy

State & Region