After roughly seven hours of debate — and just two hours before dawn — the state Senate approved officially passed a $135 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, four days before the March 31 deadline.
The Senate adjourned at 4:32 a.m. Wednesday after voting in favor of the remaining budget legislation, ending a marathon session that spanned parts of two days and included votes on six bills, attempted hostile amendments and criticism from Senate Democrats for not voting in daylight.
The spending plan, for the fiscal year beginning Monday, includes about a $1 billion increase in education aid, an increase in the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2016 and an early extension of a higher income-tax on millionaires that had been set to expire next year.
The Senate’s passage marks the first on-time budget for the chamber’s majority coalition, which includes the Senate Republicans and the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, which are part of a power-sharing agreement.
“This is a business-friendly and family-friendly budget because it emphasizes the Senate Republican’s priorities to help businesses create new jobs and provide tax relief to struggling middle-class families,” Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos said in an early-morning statement.
Vote counts varied from bill to bill, ranging from 55-5 in favor of an in-house budget for the Legislature and the judiciary to 34-26 for the health and mental hygiene bill, which Senate Democrats voted in a bloc against.
Senate Democrats were critical of the budget’s minimum-wage increase, saying that it doesn’t go far enough, fast enough. The hourly wage will first increase to $8 at the end of 2013, before increasing to $8.75 the following year and $9 by 2016.
“This State Budget could have done more to help middle and working class New Yorkers, including providing a real increase in the state’s minimum wage, helping ease the tax burden on hard-working New Yorkers and increasing aid to our schools and local governments,” Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, said in a statement.
The focus now turns to the state Assembly, where lawmakers are expected to take up the budget votes beginning Thursday morning. If passed, it would give the state its third consecutive on-time budget.