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Lawmakers want local crews working state-financed jobs



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June 01, 2009
Several legislators and representatives of building trade unions are calling for the passage of a bill they say would create more transparency in the economic development process and help ensure state-funded development projects use local workers as often as possible, rather than relying on out-of-state labor.

Sens. George Onorato, D-Queens, and Neil Breslin, D-Delmar, and Assemblyman Tim Gordon, D-Bethlehem, announced the introduction of a bill (S.5464/A.8235) that would require companies seeking taxpayer financing and incentives to disclose their hiring and wage plans before they receive funding.

The legislators say the bill would bring more transparency to the economic development process and ensure jobs go to local workers to stimulate the economy in the community where the project is being built.

According to Onorato, the bill's Senate sponsor, there are more than 250,000 skilled trade men and women in the state, and the bill could help bring them more work. "Basically [the bill] ensures that the Legislature knows its subsidies we approve for economic development will be used to create construction jobs here in New York state before we approve them," Onorato said. "When the Legislature approves money for economic development we expect that local workers, not workers from out of state, will be hired with it."

Gordon, the bill's sponsor in the Assembly, reiterated that point, saying it might be assumed that workers from New York are chosen for taxpayer-funded projects, "but that is often not the case."

"Even around the Capitol when there's work being done we see license plates frequently from contractors that are out of state," he said. "We're excited about developments as we move into a new economy, as New York rebounds, but if were going to spend taxpayer dollars we need to do it right."

Additionally, Onorato said requiring companies to disclose their wage plans would help the state make sure New York workers are being paid fairly. "Low wages hurt workers, their families and local communities," said Onorato.

Robert Mantello, president of the Greater Capital Region Building Trades, said the union workers he represents are "gratified" by the legislators' bill, which he said would make sure work would be done "in good faith." He also said all taxpayers would benefit by the increased transparency the bill would create.

Although the bill calls for a verbal agreement of wage and hiring plans from contractors that they will hire local workers and pay them fair wages, there is no stipulation in it that enforces the agreement is ultimately carried through. But Gordon said the bill "addresses that by looking at the situation ahead of time so the Legislature can make an informed decision."

When asked in an interview why a written agreement was not included in the bill, Gordon replied, "The bill will show that there's some forethought and planning, and when we're dealing with not only funding dollars but numbers of jobs, [the numbers] are based in reality.

"Certainly in business there's a need for companies to be nimble and circumstances do change, but what we want to avoid is just arbitrarily inflated projections of job creation that have been mostly fantasy," he said

The bill passed the Senate Finance Committee on May 27 and has been in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee since May 11.

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