New York minimum wage hike becomes law as Hochul signs off on $229B budget

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Lawmakers in Albany passed a $229 billion spending plan that will increase the state’s minimum wage, tweak its bail laws and attempt to curb illegal and unlicensed marijuana shops.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul will sign the 10 bills into law Wednesday, according to her office.

Negotiations between the governor and her fellow Democrats who control the Legislature produced a deal late Tuesday that is packed with compromises, including many between the party’s left and center.

Under one of the bills, the minimum wage would increase to $17 in New York City and its suburbs, and $16 elsewhere in the state by 2026, with future hikes pegged to inflation.

Opponents of the wage increase said it could harm small businesses and family farms that were hurt financially during the coronavirus pandemic.

‘We ask our leaders to look for additional ways to offset mounting labor costs as the new minimum wage will keep increasing in the coming years along with inflation,’ the New York Farm Bureau, which represents farmers, said in a statement.

Lawmakers also approved a revision of the state’s bail law that will give judges more discretion to jail certain criminal defendants before trial unless they are able to come up with cash guaranteeing their return to court.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police officer, applauded those changes at a budget-related announcement with Hochul on Wednesday. He said his team met with the governor’s staff multiple times at the beginning of the budget process to push through the changes.

‘The governor heard us, she brought her team together, and we were able to zero in on those who are repeat offenders and that is important,’ he said.

Hochul insisted on the changes despite an outcry from some liberal Democrats who see it as partially rolling back changes approved in 2019 that eliminated pretrial incarceration for most nonviolent offenses.

State Senator Gustavo Rivera, a Democrat, criticized the bail changes.

‘It is short-sighted, but not surprising, that the governor made another attempt to reform bail laws to further criminalize poverty instead of focusing on the services and economic justice we need for safer communities,’ he said in a statement.

Another budget bill gives state regulators power to confiscate marijuana products from unlicensed pot shops, which have proliferated since the state legalized recreational marijuana.

The budget will also increase the state’s cigarette tax by $1, to $5.35, though lawmakers rejected Hochul’s proposed ban on menthol cigarettes.

For New York City, funds in the budget will improve the frequency of trains for the city’s public transportation system, as well as a pilot program that will give each of the five boroughs one free bus route. About $1.1 billion in annual funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will come from a payroll tax increase on the city’s largest businesses.

The votes came a little over a month past the initial April 1 deadline, with budget talks largely held up over the changes to the bail law and other policy issues. In New York, the state budget often serves as a vessel for passing major policy legislation.

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