New York State

The under-the-radar infrastructure issues

A few infrastructure measures are on the table, including a renewed push for an economic development database, the perennial battle over the Scaffold Law and a mystery surrounding state capital spending.

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The biggest infrastructure issue this year – congestion pricing – was passed as part of the state budget, and the biggest infrastructure issue remaining is a hotly contested proposal to expand prevailing wages.

But a few additional measures are on the table, including a renewed push for an economic development database, the perennial battle over the Scaffold Law and a mystery surrounding state capital spending.

Economic development database

A bill sponsored by state Sen. Leroy Comrie would establish a searchable database of state economic development projects and subsidies. The legislation has not received a lot of attention, but if it passed it would list the names, locations, time periods and other details of economic development benefits from the state – the type of information that is currently difficult to locate in the opaque world of the state agencies and public authorities.

Capital projects

Soon after the state budget passed, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said work remained to be done in the second half of the legislative session. “The capital budget is not fully included in this budget. That is true,” he told WAMC. “We have more to negotiate on the capital side and we will do that in the coming weeks.” Just what was the governor talking about? The Cuomo administration referred City & State to the state Division of Budget. Freeman Klopott, a division spokesman, would only say that the scope and details of any possible capital projects deal is “subject to negotiations.” He declined to elaborate.

The Scaffold Law

The construction industry has long sought to reform the state Scaffold Law, which makes construction companies liable for work site injuries. Opponents say the law is unnecessary because other protections are in place, while supporters say it remains critical for construction worker safety. Democratic Assemblyman John McDonald III has pushed for proportionate liability, which would make workers in some circumstances also responsible for construction accidents if they are deemed negligent. Republican state Sen. Fred Akshar joined McDonald as a sponsor of the bipartisan bill, but the state Senate Labor Committee chairwoman, Jessica Ramos, recently defended the Scaffold Law, calling it “one of the most important laws that protect all construction workers and the fact is that the law saves lives, period.”

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