Assemblyman Harry Bronson doesn’t want questions about how the state calculates prevailing wage to interfere with legislative efforts to expand the use of prevailing wage in New York.

Following a press conference in the Capitol on Monday to push for a broader definition of “public work” in state law, the Rochester Democrat said, “If you want to have a conversation on how we determine prevailing wage at another time, I’m more than happy to have that conversation.”

The proposed language change, which was included in the legislative one-house budgets, would greatly expand the number of construction projects in New York that would be required to pay a prevailing wage. A coalition, largely consisting of business interests, has formed in opposition to the proposal, arguing that it would curb the amount of construction in the state.

The Empire Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank, has repeatedly highlighted the opaque process by which the state Department of Labor calculates prevailing wage in different regions and raised questions about the accuracy of the calculations. The group recently noted that the state “refused to publicly release copies of the construction union contracts and pay scales it uses as the basis for its prevailing wage calculation.”

Asked whether language should be included in the budget requiring the release of this information, Bronson said, “That’s a deflection on the bill…That should not be a barrier to moving this bill forward.”

Bronson, who sponsors a standalone version of this proposal, was joined on Monday by Sen. Jessica Ramos, a Queens Democrat who carries the bill in the state Senate, and labor activists. The group maintains that prevailing wage has a positive effect on the workforce and doesn’t significantly drive up costs.

Speaking to critics of changing the definition of public work, Bronson said, “The idea that somehow, by paying prevailing wage, you’re going to stagnate the economic development is a very simplistic way of looking at this.”

Bronson and Ramos said stakeholders on the issue had been part of discussions over the weekend, and they were hopeful the language advanced by the Legislature would be part of a final budget deal.   Cuomo, who said in January that “project construction with public subsidies should be subject to the prevailing wage,” didn’t include language regarding the definition of public work in his budget proposal.

© 2019 Times Union

You may also like

EDITORIAL: Cuomo’s latest ‘triumph,’ gold-plated at your expense

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest economic development “triumph” is a deal to bring a high-tech chipmaker into the 450-acre Marcy Nanocenter outside Utica, where Cree Inc. will build a $1 billion plant with 600 skilled jobs at an average $75,000 salary. Read More

Business lobby opposes wage mandate

E.J. McMahon, research director of the Empire Center for Public Policy, estimated that expanding the prevailing-wage mandate in New York to all projects that get public support would boost construction costs significantly. In an essay published after the legislation was filed, McMahon argued the proposed expansion resembled a “costly protection racket” for New York’s “politically powerful labor cartel.” Read More

The labor movement’s push for farmworker rights

Fiscal conservatives fault the state prevailing wage requirement for driving up the cost of public infrastructure by double digits. A 2017 Empire Center for Public Policy analysis found the law “drives up total construction costs by 13% to 25%, depending on the region, which will translate into billions of dollars in added taxpayer-funded spending.” Read More

Expanding prevailing wage: a help to region’s fortunes, or hindrance?

But an Empire Center for Public Policy study estimated that the state's prevailing wage mandate would drive up the cost of publicly funded projects by at least 20 percent in the Buffalo area, compared to median private-sector construction wages. The study estimated the mandate led to increases of anywhere from 13 percent to 25 percent in the state, depending on the region. Read More

EDITORIAL: Prevailing wage leads to prevailing waste

Research has found that prevailing wage requirements increase the cost of construction. In New York, a 2017 report released by the Empire Center for Public Policy found that prevailing wage requirements inflated the cost of publicly funded construction projects in the state by 13 to 25 percent. Read More

Is there any way to build more for less?

While lawmakers have focused their attention elsewhere, representatives of the construction industry have continued to highlight their opposition to prevailing wage requirements. These rules mean that contractors have to pay workers a minimum pay rate while working on publicly funded construction projects. Some have blamed such requirements for making construction in New York so expensive. A 2017 report from the Empire Center for Public Policy stated that prevailing wage requirement increase costs on public construction projects by as much as 25 percent. Read More

Why it costs so much to build anything in New York City

This winter, New York has had two major construction scandals. In March, Related, the giant real estate firm building out much of the Hudson Yards office and apartment site on Manhattan’s West Side, sued construction unions, alleging that they inflated costs by more than $100 million, including fooling Related into paying up to $70 an hour for someone who fetches coffee. Read More

NY’s obscene, pro-union ‘prevailing wage’ law is driving public-project costs sky high

An Empire Center report last week noted that the state and local governments paid twice the 17 percent inflation rate for job compensation at public construction projects between 2007 and 2017. Thank New York’s “prevailing wage” law for that. 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

General Inquiries: Info@EmpireCenter.org

Press Inquiries: Press@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.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!