May 23, 2017

What will 2017 state legislative session bring?

Every small business owner and employer knows that decisions made in Albany have an impact – either positive or negative – on the bottom line.

Chris Wiest, vice president/ public policy and advocacy at the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, gave a presentation to RHBA members recently about issues of interest to employers regarding the 2017 New York State budget and legislative session. (RHBA is an affiliate of the GRCC.)

Before delving into discussing 2017 proposals, Chris reviewed key areas from 2016:

  • Minimum wage increase: The legislature adopted a minimum wage increase schedule. The wage will gradually increase to $15 by 2020 for fast food jobs outside of New York City. The wage for non-fast food jobs will gradually increase to $12.50 by 2020.
  • Paid family leave: Starting in 2018, many employees will be eligible for eight weeks of paid leave at 50 percent AWW (average weekly wage). Starting in 2021, leave increases to 12 weeks at 67 percent AWW.
  • Middle class tax cuts: People earning $40,000 to $300,000 will pay lower personal income taxes.
  • Infrastructure: The state designated $27.14 billion for upstate roads, bridges, rail and aviation; New York City area projects will get $27.98.
  • Legislator pay: A proposed increase to $116,900 from the current $79,500 failed to pass.

In terms of the 2017 budget, Chris gave an overview of proposals:

  • Extending the millionaires’ tax for three years.
  • Health Care Reform Act extension until 12/31/20.
  • Free SUNY tuition.
  • Statewide ride hailing (such as Uber, Lyft).
  • Regional Economic Development Commission, round VII, $750 million.
  • Enhanced Child Care Tax Credit.
  • Expanded Workforce Training Credit.

Chris told the group that the Rochester Chamber will be focusing on economic development; state mandates and taxes affecting business; health care; workforce development/education; workers’ compensation; transportation/infrastructure.

Workers’ compensation continues to be a key focus for the chamber. It’s Workers’ Compensation Reform Committee developed a survey that was launched last summer with the Rochester Chamber, other Upstate chambers and business groups. More than 200 businesses responded to the survey, with 84 percent stating the workers’ compensation is a significant business concern.  The chamber frequently interacts with lawmakers to talk about ways to reduce the high costs of workers’ compensation.

Chris finished his presentation by making three points about the need for employer engagement:

  • To be effective advocates, employers need to understand the impact of legislation and cost-drivers.
  • To be effective advocates, we need data to better illustrate the negative impact of laws and regulations.
  • To be successful on the reform front, we need more voices from the employer community.

For more information, you can email Chris at chris.wiest@greaterrochesterchamber.com or call him at 585-256-4626.