December 07, 2012 at 15:19 PM EST
Editorial: New Senate, old problems
The state Senate was turned upside down last week by an unprecedented power-sharing arrangement between Republicans and a breakaway faction of Democrats. But the issues confronting New York remain the same, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo was correct when he said the restructured Senate should be judged on how it deals with them. One immediate ramification: an expected vote on a minimum-wage increase, which Senate Republicans blocked last session. Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, who heads the splinter group of five Democrats that will share control of the chamber, is the prime Senate sponsor of the minimum-wage bill, and appears to have received assurance from his new Republican partners that a vote will happen. (If it doesn’t, his new co-presidency of the Senate could be considered worthless.) But there is speculation that the bill, which would hike the statewide hourly wage floor to $8.50 from $7.25, could be stripped of a provision indexing the wage to inflation. Indexing was an important reason we endorsed the proposal last February; it would essentially take the possibility of big increases off the table, rather than subjecting minimum wage to the whims of an ever-changing Legislature. Indexing offers predictability, which businesses need. Mr. Klein also said campaign finance reform—which Republicans also stopped—would get a vote next year. A fair compromise would reduce what donors can give to political campaigns but not impose a public-financing model that Senate Republicans and some business groups despise. If the New York City Council is any indication, having taxpayers fork over $6 for every dollar raised by candidates does not produce a business-friendly Legislature. Two matters of importance to the business community did not make Mr. Klein’s priority list and were also missing from a “litmus test” that Mr. Cuomo released last week for the revamped Senate. One is the workers’ compensation system, which has seen no significant improvements since an early-2007 fix. That reform’s savings have since been whittled away by insurance premium increases, and its shortcomings have gone unaddressed. Groups that follow workers’ comp have suggestions to make the system better. The governor and legislative leaders (now four men in a room) should adopt some in 2013. The second issue is unemployment insurance. The fund that pays jobless claims had its seemingly safe surplus wiped out by the economic downturn following the 9/11 attacks and never recovered. Today it is several billion dollars in the red. New York cannot depend indefinitely on federal loans to sustain the program. But it must be brought to solvency in a manner that businesses can afford.
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