Orleans EDA, Unshackle Upstate concerned with prevailing wage proposal

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 February 2020 at 6:18 pm

The Orleans Economic Development Agency is eyeing a prevailing wage proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo with concern.

The governor wants prevailing wage to apply to private projects that cost $5 million or more, if the construction costs for those projects total 30 percent or more in public incentives.

The governor pushed for a prevailing wage component last year for some private projects that receive public funding, but the effort didn’t get through the State Legislature.

The governor has modified the proposal this year, setting a $5 million minimum for the projects. The governor is exempted projects that are affordable housing, rehabilitation of historic buildings and brownfield redevelopments.

The governor also wants to create an 11-member Public Subsidy Board with members appointed by the governor.

The Orleans EDA board of directors met this morning. Agency attorney Kevin Zanner expects the governor’s proposal isn’t final and will draw plenty of attention from legislators.

Unshackle Upstate and Associated Builders and Contractors are urging state legislators to reject the governor’s proposal.

“Expanding the state’s prevailing wage onto private projects would be a fatal blow to the Upstate economy,” said Michael Kracker, executive director of Unshackle Upstate. “This costly mandate drives up construction costs, limits job growth and hurts efforts to revitalize the Upstate economy. Even worse, the Executive Budget proposal irresponsibly favors New York City development – imposing greater negative impact on areas outside the five boroughs, including Upstate New York.”

Unshackle Upstate also is worried about the proposal to create a Public Subsidy Board because the unelected group will have the power to alter minimum threshold percentages and minimum public funding thresholds. These and additional measures will ultimately give the Public Subsidy Board the power to modify the expanded mandate without legislative approval, Kracker said.

Brian Sampson, President of Associated Builders and Contractors, Empire State Chapter, spoke against the prevailing wage expansion during a joint legislative hearing on economic development in Albany.

“The proposal to create yet another arbitrary board that has lawmaking power is unacceptable and will lead to widespread unpredictability,” Sampson said. “We have consistently pointed out that the various flawed proposals to expand prevailing will dramatically increase construction costs and result in less construction and fewer jobs in particular for minority owners and workers alike. We need real solutions and predictability, not political gamesmanship.”

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