Yesterday, Senate Co-Temporary President and Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R) made statements that suggested that he would be open to raising New York’s state minimum wage and the DREAM fund. The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education of Alien Minors) is a separate part of the proposed legislative initiative that includes New York State DREAM Act. The DREAM fund would establish a program for the children of illegal aliens to obtain scholarships, in-state tuition, as well as enrollment in technical and higher-educational training programs. The bill does not allow for any taxpayer funds to be spent on the program but relies instead on private donations and allows those on the committee overseeing the fund to raise them. The initiative failed last year in the Senate but things are changing.
Senate Republicans lost three seats in last year’s elections. The Senate is now run by a coalition of Republicans and the Independent Democratic Caucus, made up of five Senators who identify as Democrats but have a tendency to vote more conservatively than their other Democratic colleagues.
“We’re still Democrats, but we think the best way to move a Democratic agenda is in a bipartisan fashion,” said Senator Jeff Klein (D), Dean Skelos’ Co-Temporary President of the Senate. “I think what we have to prove, time and time again, is that negotiation is not a dirty word… it’s an effective means of governing.”
As for the proposed increase in the state’s minimum wage, Skelos said, “Last year, the economy was in such a fragile state that it was the wrong time to do it… What I think can be done this year, the economy is improving, is we can have a serious discussion if there’s a way to implement it.”
New York State’s labor force is hovering right around 9.6 million with employment at 8.8 million. This is up from a year ago when both were down nearly 100,000 individuals from current levels. Unemployment is hovering around 8%, about where it was a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The growth of New York’s Gross State Product is growing at a rate of 1.1%, according to the latest available data. This shows a negative real growth in the state’s economy as the rate of inflation was at 1.7%, which was greater than the growth in the state’s GSP and only .5% of the state’s population was added to the labor force.
The Republican lost their monopoly of control in the Senate last fall. Since the new session has begun, the state has seen a rise in the influence of the Democrat Party as they have firm control over the Assembly and the Executive and are part of the leadership coalition in the Senate.