Capitol Watch: Farmworker Labor Debate, Cuomo Taxes
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state lawmakers will hold hearings on a proposal to repeal an 80-year-old law that prevents farmworkers in the state from unionizing.
The proposal has long languished in Albany, but supporters are more hopeful now that Democrats control the entire Legislature.
Meanwhile, a look at Gov. Andrew Cuomo's tax returns shows he personally benefited — slightly — from the 2017 federal tax overhaul that he has blamed for driving up taxes for many in his state.
Here's a look at stories making news at New York's Capitol:
FARM LABOR LAWS: New York's Senate is planning three days of hearings on legislation named the Farmworker Fair Labor Practice Act, which would grant farmworkers the right to organize to demand better wages or conditions.
The first is scheduled for Thursday in Morrisville in central New York, with a second on Friday on Long Island and the final hearing on May 2 in Sullivan County in the Catskills.
Farmworkers have long wanted to eliminate the state labor law that forbids them from unionizing, saying they deserve the same right to collectively bargain given to other workers.
The Act would also extend disability and worker compensation benefits to farmworkers, allow agricultural laborers at least one day off a week and require employers to pay overtime when a laborer works more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week.
"In New York, there is a Jim Crow-era law still on our books that denies human beings — mostly black and Latino taxpaying New Yorkers — parity with nearly every other worker in this state," said Senator Jessica Ramos, D-Queens and the Senate sponsor of the bill.
Many farmworkers and business groups oppose the act, saying it could devastate family farm owners who can't afford higher wages or the strikes that could result from its passage.
The group Unshackle Upstate, a business-friendly group, calls the act "devastating" and notes that the state's farms support nearly 200,000 jobs.
"Legislators should focus on ways to help family farms grow and succeed instead of imposing additional burdens on these important businesses," said Executive Director Michael Kracker.
The act hasn't been scheduled for a vote in either the Senate or the Assembly, but supporters say they hope to make the bill a priority before lawmakers adjourn for the year in late June.
CUOMO TAXES: Cuomo routinely makes his annual tax returns available to journalists for inspection and this year they showed that he paid a lower tax rate thanks to the 2017 federal tax overhaul he has pushed to repeal.
Cuomo's 2018 return showed that under the new rules, he paid a federal rate of 18.5%, compared to 19.6% the year before.
All told, Cuomo paid more than $51,000 in federal and state taxes for 2018, compared to nearly $55,000 a year ago.
The 2017 tax changes capped a popular deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000, sharply increasing the tax bills for many New Yorkers, although not the governor. Cuomo has said the cap puts New York at a competitive disadvantage and must be rescinded.
Cuomo's income last year was $211,000, mostly from his $179,000 salary, which is set to rise to $250,000 by 2021 under a series of raises approved by the Legislature.