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Leaders getting close on New York state budget

New York State Capitol

State lawmakers are close to agreeing on a new state spending plan that would include a deal to raise taxes on the wealthy and raise the minimum wage.

Legislative leaders are holding multiple closed door meetings with Governor Cuomo, and say they expect a deal on the budget within the next day, in order to print and pass bills by Friday. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and the other leaders, were reluctant to provide details, saying they did not want to jeopardize any possible agreements.

"We are making progress on all of the issues before us," Silver says. "I think we have a good framework of discuss here and we're making progress."

Senate Finance Committee Chair John DeFrancisco was also reticent. But he did say there is talk of a tax break package for businesses to offset a possible minimum wage hike.

The budget deal could also include a continuation of a tax surcharge on individuals making more than one million dollars a year, and couples making more than two million dollars annually.  The tax was to expire next year, in 2014, an election year for the governor and all 212 lawmakers. The proposal would extend the temporary tax on the wealthy into 2015.

EJ McMahon, with the conservative think tank the Empire Center, says the state may not get as much money from extending the tax on millionaires as lawmakers think.

"You're really tempting fate at this point," he said.

McMahon predicts more wealthy people will leave New York. With the internet and Skype, he says, it’s easy to conduct business from anywhere these days.

Ron Deutsch, with New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness, says if the wealthy were going to be driven away by the tax rate, they would have already left, since the tax surcharge has existed in one form or another since 2009.

"This is absolutely a fairness issue," he said.

Proposals on the minimum wage range from a $9 an hour plan with automatic future increases tied to inflation, pushed by the Assembly.  Cuomo would like to see the minimum wage increased to  $8.75  an hour.  Republicans are seeking a lower minimum wage for younger workers, saying a training wage would prevent small businesses from laying off teenagers or creating fewer jobs in the future.

Deutsch says a training wage would not be the right policy.

"That's a big mistake because it's really a slippery slope. There needs to be dignity for all workers," he said.

Cuomo and lawmakers say they can’t rule any proposal in or out until the entire budget is done.

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