The Bronx was most definitely in the house at this year’s budget negotiating session in Albany.
Senator Jeff Klein became the Fourth Man in the room with Gov. Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Klein’s Senate co-leader, Republican Dean Skelos in shaping the budget.
Klein, who leads the tie-breaking Independent Democratic Conference, touted this year’s new state budget as “the most middle-class friendly budget in a generation.”
For his Bronx district, Klein said the 2013-2014 budget agreement will help constituents ranging from returning war veterans looking for work, to minimum wage earners looking to maintain their place on the economic ladder, to small business owners.
Minimum wage rises
Besides giving minimum wage earners a raise they deserve, the new budget also puts real dollars back into the pockets of families in need, he said.
“When we formed the bipartisan coalition last December, we promised low-wage workers that we would pass a major increase to the minimum wage,” he said. “Today, we’re delivering on that promise and raising the minimum wage even higher than anyone thought possible just three short months ago.”
The minimum wage will rise in three steps, from $7.25 to $9.00 per hour by late 2015, with Klein calling it especially important to many of his constituents.
“In the Bronx, I think you have a disproportionate amount of minimum wage workers, so you are going to see a boost in their pocket books,” he said. “That means they are going to be able to spend at local businesses for things like food, childcare and anything else they may need, which I think has a positive effect on the local economy.”
Help for vets
The budget also saw the passage of a business tax credit of 10% of the salary of a newly hired veteran, up to $5,000. That number jumps to 15% of the salary of a disabled veteran, said Klein.
Klein, whose district stretches diagonally from Riverdale to Throggs Neck, said the veterans credit came out of ‘thoughtraisers’ he had in his district with veterans groups and business leaders.
“We found that veterans’ unemployment is about 13 percent in New York…and that is looking at post 9/11 veterans coming home. I think we are sending a terrible message,” he said. “The least we can do is make sure people fighting for our country overseas have jobs when they return home.”
A Child Tax Credit was also enacted that will provide a $350 rebate check to families with at least one child under 16, and with incomes between $40,000 and $300,000, said Klein. Families earning under $40,000 already get an earned income tax credit, a child tax credit, and a day care credit, he said.
“Two years ago, we cut middle class taxes to their lowest level in sixty years,” he said. “Today, I’m proud to announce that these same low tax rates on the middle class are here to stay.”
Also passed in the budget, said Klein, funding for many school building to function in the” community school” model – where afterschool programing is provided and school buildings stay open at night and on weekends, as well as closing a $1.5 billion budget deficit without raising taxes, creating new fees or borrowing.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at (718) 742-3393