exit3-150x150-5313766In cutting the figurative ribbon on a big Capital Region highway project, Governor Andrew Cuomo made a convincing argument against his own policy of steering state work to building trade unions.

The governor staged a Sunday morning press conference at the Albany Airport Connector in Colonie, which will become I-87 Northway Exit 3, to announce the $50 million project will be completed sooner than planned.

“Three words you very rarely hear for a government project: this project is ahead of schedule,” Cuomo told reporters. “The project was supposed to be completed next year and we are only weeks from the total completion.”

“People have a stereotype of government being slow and inefficient,” he added. “It doesn’t say anywhere in the Bible government must be slow and inefficient and this project proves the exact opposite.”

But the governor left out a crucial detail: departing from a pattern set in other large public construction projects, the state didn’t force the winning bidder, L&T Construction of Schoharie County, to sign a project labor agreement (PLA) with local construction unions. Mandatory PLAs have the effect of preventing non-union contractors from bidding on jobs, which shrinks the pool of eligible bidders and drives up costs.

To be sure, L&T still had to pay inflated union rates under the state’s Section 220 “prevailing wage” law, which covers public works jobs. But without a PLA, a contractor is free to use its own employees instead of having to hire most of its workers from union halls, as PLAs typically require. And they aren’t saddled with inefficient union work rules.

The result: an early opening—and a strong argument against Cuomo’s pledge that “every project we build will be built with organized labor.

Coincidentally, Lancaster Development—L&T’s managing member—was at the center of what amounted to a controlled experiment regarding project labor agreements early in Cuomo’s tenure. An administrative snafu at the state Department of Transportation invited bids on a project in Orange County from contractors both with and without agreements to use project labor agreements. Lancaster came in the lowest by $4.5 million—but didn’t plan to use a PLA.

The Cuomo administration fought in court to reject Lancaster’s bid—that is, for its right to pay more for the same work, in order to steer the work to a union contractor and to Hudson Valley trade unions politically aligned with the governor.

The Orange County project was ultimately delayed by a year. And the consequences for taxpayers didn’t end there:

Not only did DOT disregard the lowest bid in favor of one $4.5 million higher, it also saddled taxpayers with up to $22 million in costs from having to stop the work after a judge ruled it had wrongly awarded the contract.

“Slow and inefficient” doesn’t begin to describe it.

About the Author

Ken Girardin

Ken Girardin is the Empire Center’s Director of Strategic Initiatives.

Read more by Ken Girardin

You may also like

De Blasio’s (Apparent) Good Move Dissolves Into Phony “Savings”

Late Thursday, as hailed in this space, Mayor de Blasio finally made a decisive move—or at least seemed to make a move—in the direction of actually saving some money on labor costs by getting tough with a powerful (and powerfully self-entitled) municipal union. Read More

‘Clusters’ Drive a Widespread Surge in New York’s Coronavirus Infection Rates

New York's coronavirus infection rates have surged to their highest levels since May, pushing 10 counties – including Brooklyn, Rockland and Orange – above a threshold that the Cuomo administration uses to justify travel restrictions on other states. Read More

Not a Moment Too Soon, Bill de Blasio Is Setting a Good Fiscal Example

After months of flailing, floundering and stalling on desperately needed cuts to New York City's pandemic-ravaged budget, Mayor de Blasio just made a smart and appropriate move to save money—in the process defying one of New York's most powerful government employee unions. Read More

Cahill Charges Are An Indictment Of Cuomo’s Policies

Yesterday’s indictment of the state’s top construction union official on federal corruption charges raises a big question: if private companies are paying bribes to avoid having to work with certain construction unions, why is Governor Cuomo insisting that the state keep doing it? Read More

New York State Has Dug Itself Into Its Deepest Hole On Record

"State's Financial Hole Deepens" is the headline on Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's press release accompanying the August cash flow report. Read More

New Yorkers Paid Less in Federal Taxes in First Year of New Federal Tax Law

Federal income taxes paid by New Yorkers decreased by nearly $3.4 billion in 2018, the first year of the new federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), according to newly released Internal Revenue Service data. Read More

The DOJ’s Probe of Coronavirus in Nursing Homes Appears to Leave Out Most Victims

The U.S. Justice Department's newly announced inquiry into coronavirus in New York's nursing homes comes with a crucial caveat: It will look only at government-operated facilities, which represent a small fraction of the state's nursing-home industry. Read More

State’s Per-Recipient Medicaid Spending Rises to 3rd Highest in the U.S.

New York's per-recipient Medicaid spending has soared to the nation's third highest rate, a sign of fiscal trouble for one of the state's most important programs. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130
E-Mail: info@empirecenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.