Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, said the state budget to be approved tonight by the Senate shows that the coalition running the Senate is working.
“I think what we are able to accomplish was a fiscally responsible budget, but at the same time a very family friendly budget,” Klein said in an interview in his office today with Gannett’s Albany Bureau. “We kept within our 2 percent spending cap, didn’t raise taxes or borrow and we’re still able to, I think, help New York families in many ways.”
Klein, who represents parts of lower Westchester, heads the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, and they share power with the 31-member Senate Republican conference.
The Senate will work through the night to pass the $135 billion budget. It closes a $1.3 billion budget gap and increases spending for schools by more than $1 billion, to a total of $21 billion. It includes a deal to extend higher income taxes on millionaires and provide $350 rebate checks to families with children in late 2014.
The budget also includes tax breaks for businesses and includes a three-year phase of an increase in the minimum wage—from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour by 2016.
Klein originally supported increasing the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour in January. He said the budget accomplishes the goal of increasing the minimum wage, and he no longer supports tying future increases to inflation, saying it would go up too slowly if it were.
A next challenge for the IDC is shepherding through the Senate an abortion-right bill. Klein, who backs the measure, said he’s unsure if it would pass.
“I don’t know. Whenever you have a contentious issue like that, especially where right now you don’t have 32 Democrats; we don’t have 32 votes with Republicans. It’s sort of up in the air,” Klein said.
“I’m still hopeful it could happen.”