Joint legislative budget hearings to review Gov. Cuomo’s 2016-17 Executive Budget proposal continued last week.

At Tuesday’s economic development hearing, lawmakers asked Empire State Development (ESD) president Howard Zemsky for updates on the state’s START-UP NY program, which creates tax-free zones for certain businesses.  The next report on the program is due in April — after the budget deadline.  Zemsky said there are nearly 160 companies participating in the program, but he would not say how many people these companies employ or whether the participating companies are meeting their job creation and investment goals.

At Wednesday’s hearing on workforce development, the Governor’s proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour was the main topic of discussion.  The Department of Labor’s Executive Deputy Commissioner told legislators that higher wages for low-wage earners will help the state’s economy because workers will spend more, and will save taxpayer dollars because they will no longer rely on government welfare programs.  We are deeply skeptical that imposing a massive new wage mandate will actually result in new economic activity. We agree with Senate Labor Committee Chair Jack Martins, who expressed his concern that increasing the minimum wage could result in job losses.

At Thursday’s hearing on public protection, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks of the state’s Office of Court Administration (OCA) asked lawmakers for additional funding to help pay for judicial salary increases and for civil legal services.  Lawmakers also expressed concern about the Governor’s proposal to create a permanent special prosecutor to investigate police-involved deaths.

Legislative budget hearings conclude next week with hearings on the following topics:

  • Monday, Feb. 8 – Higher Education
  • Tuesday, Feb. 9 – Human Services