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Tentative NY budget deal touches rich and poor

Michael Gormley, Associated Press

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, talks to reporters after leaving a leaders budget meeting in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office at the Capitol on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- The working poor, middle-class families, millionaires, employers and unemployed veterans would all be touched by New York's $135 billion budget expected to be adopted as early as Thursday night.

The Senate approved the budget at about 4 a.m. Wednesday in an all-night session. The Assembly took up the budget bills Thursday morning. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already approved of the 2013-14 spending plan due by midnight Sunday, making it the third straight on-time budget if the Assembly finishes before then.

Among the highlights are:

— Raising the $7.25 hourly minimum wage to $8 an hour on Jan. 1; $8.75 a year later; and $9 a year after that. There would be no automatic increase tied to inflation as Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had sought. Employers hiring teenagers part-time will get a subsidy to help raise pay to the minimum wage.

— A tax rebate of about $350 for families with at least one child making $40,000 to $300,000. The checks won't flow, however, until October 2014, just before elections.

— Tax cuts including a rebate for employers who hire recent combat veterans in a measure sought by the Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference. They include a $10,000 tax credit for hiring a veteran who joined the service after Sept. 11, 2001, and $15,000 credit for hiring disabled veterans.

— A second extension of the $2 billion temporary millionaire's tax. The income tax increase on those making $1 million and more isn't due to expire until 2014, but inclusion this year will avoid Cuomo and the lawmakers having to take up the measure during an election year. Cuomo and Senate Republicans first extended the tax in a special session in December 2011 after promising during the 2010 elections to reject the measure as a job killer and a bad message for New York to send to employers.

—Funding to pay for an additional competency test for teachers and to allow schools to choose to lengthen the school day and academic year. Another agreement will keep new teacher evaluations from lapsing, keeping them in force until a new school labor contract is negotiated.

— Changes to the state's new gun control law. The bill was rushed into law a month after the Newtown, Conn., shootings and contains several errors and ambiguities that needed to be fixed. The budget suspends the April 15 date that would have outlawed the standard 10-bullet magazine. New York's measure outlaws magazines that carry more than seven bullets, but seven-bullet magazines aren't made. Another fix would exempt police and their high-capacity guns from the law and allow Hollywood to continue making violent movies and TV shows in New York, using weapons banned in the state.

Other issues have agreement or are near agreement but will be pushed to the remainder of the session that ends June 21. They are:

— Limitations on the New York City Police Department's practice of "stop and frisk," which supporters say cuts down on crime and opponents call a violation of civil rights. Cuomo has sought to limit this practice by decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana in public. He had sought to turn a misdemeanor for public display into a violation, the same charge for possession of small amounts of marijuana in private settings such as homes.

— Approval to let New York City use traffic cameras to record license plates of speeding cars.

Also important is what was left out of the budget after negotiations. That includes a $25 million "Dream Act" pushed by Latino lawmakers to provide state finance aid to illegal immigrants attending college. The budget also fails to reimburse New York City schools for $250 million they lost because they couldn't agree on a teacher evaluation system by a state-mandated deadline.