ALBANY New laws are set to take effect Jan. 1 in New York, including an increase in the minimum wage and offering tax-free zones for businesses that locate near college campuses.
Other laws include letting the state start the selection of four upstate casinos and enacting some tax breaks for businesses.
The state's corporate tax on manufacturers will be reduced by about 10 percent, saving about 13,000 companies $30 million in 2014, Senate Republicans predicted.
Mike Durant, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the tax breaks don't go far enough. New York is still ranked by the Tax Foundation, a Washington D.C.-based group, as having the worst business climate in the nation.
"We view 2013 as a failure for small business," Durant said.
New York's minimum wage will increase from $7.25 an hour to $8 an hour on Jan. 1. The move was opposed by businesses, but supported by unions and adopted by the state Legislature.
Mario Cilento, president of the AFL-CIO, an umbrella organization for the state's unions, said the increase is a start, but still not enough for struggling workers.
"We know that working men and women still, for the most part, are going to have to take a second job if you intend to support a family on the minimum wage," Cilento said.
The minimum wage will increase to $9 an hour at the end of 2015.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, on Monday proposed to increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour a year earlier than in current law. Silver wants it to get to $9 an hour by Dec. 31, 2014.
He also renewed his push to tie future increases to the rate of inflation—which has been rejected by Senate Republicans.
"New York's hardworking men and women are struggling, and they cannot afford to wait two more years for a decent raise," Silver said in a statement.
On Jan. 1, the state can begin to enroll companies into its Start-Up NY program. It will give businesses 10 years of no taxes if they locate on or near college campuses, particularly upstate.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed the initiative toward the end of the legislative session, which ended in June, as a way to lure new jobs to upstate.
Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, said the program will bring jobs Binghamton University and upstate colleges.
"Start-Up NY will help BU, as well as colleges and universities across the state, pull New York closer to becoming an economic powerhouse of new businesses, jobs and careers," he said in a statement.
SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher said earlier this month that 1,100 companies have already shown interest in the program.
Another economic development piece will also start Jan. 1. New York voters on Nov. 5 approved allowing up to seven privately owned casinos to be built.
Lawmakers designated that the first four will be built upstate: in the Catskills, Southern Tier and Albany area.
There are at least three proposals in each region, and the state Gaming Commission will meet in early January to formulate the bidding process for private developers to seek the gaming licenses.
The federal health-care exchange also starts on Jan. 1. For those who enrolled as of Dec. 24, payment for health insurance through the exchange is due Dec. 31.
But consumers have a 10-day grace period to make the premium payment, the state Health Department said. The last day for enrollment in coverage next year is March 31.
New York's health-care exchange had a 22 percent increase in enrollment over the past week, reaching 241,522 enrollees, the state Health Department said Monday. The state said that 480,911 New Yorkers have completed their applications to enroll in the health exchange.
"Hannah's Law" takes effect Jan. 1. It amends New York's medical insurance law to cover the cost of enteral formulas.
Eosinophilic esophagtis is an inflammatory condition where the esophagus becomes filled with eosinophils, a type of white blood cell. Children with the disorder can only obtain nourishment from expensive enteral formulas or feeding tubes.
The new law will require insurers to cover the cost of the formulas. It's named after Hannah Devane, an eight year-old girl from Yorktown, Westchester County, who suffered from the disorder. The measure was pushed by Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County.
"Hannah is the cutest and toughest little girl I know and is an outstanding, giving member of our community," Ball said in a statement. "Thanks to this new law, we have ensured that thousands of families are never again victimized by the system, like the Devane family."
Another health law takes effect Jan. 1. New York will require medical facilities to offer Hepatitis C testing to patients born between 1945 and 1965.
New York is the first in the nation to issue the requirement, and as many as 150,000 New Yorkers may not know about their potential Hepatitis C status, according to state officials.
Hepatitis C is a liver disease spread through blood that slowly causes serious health problems like liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death. It often has no symptoms and people can live a long time without feeling sick.