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

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