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Cuomo signs law requiring U.S.-made steel and iron on NY projects

Unions lobbied for the “buy American” legislation, which was opposed by Canada and other countries as well as business groups.

A new state law effective April 1 will

A new state law effective April 1 will apply to building contracts on bridge and road work valued at more than $1 million and overseen by state agencies. Above: ironworkers at a temporary Route 110 bridge over Sunrise Highway last year. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

State agencies that build and repair roads and bridges will be required to use U.S.-made steel and iron effective April 1, under a bill signed into law Friday by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The law also establishes a task force to explore expanding the “buy American” requirement to other products, such as cement and aluminum.

“I am proud to sign this legislation to support hardworking men and women, revitalize infrastructure across the state, [and] bolster the strength of our manufacturing industries,” Cuomo said in a statement on Friday.

He had initially called for a broader measure requiring all state agencies to purchase U.S.-made goods if the procurement is valued at more than $100,000.

However, the State Legislature balked at the governor’s proposal, unveiled in January, because of the objections of Canada, other countries and business groups.

The new law represents a compromise between Cuomo and the legislature.

It only affects bridge and road work valued at more than $1 million and overseen by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, state Department of Transportation, Thruway Authority, Bridge Authority, Office of General Services, SUNY Construction Fund and the state Dormitory Authority.

The law only applies to building contracts signed after April 1.

Canada’s top diplomat to New York State, in a June visit to Melville, said the legislation is an improvement over Cuomo’s proposal but still shortsighted.

“We will always argue the principle . . . that Canada and the United States should not inhibit trade between each other,” Phyllis Yaffe, Canadian Consul General to New York, said in an interview.

“Our argument is very clear: It’s not good for you and it’s not good for us,” she said. Her spokesman didn’t immediately return a voicemail seeking comment on Friday.

Canada is New York’s largest trading partner. And Yaffe estimated the value of exports and imports between Canada and Long Island at about $1.5 billion last year.

Howard Zemsky, Cuomo’s economic development chief, has heard the concerns of representatives of the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario in meetings with them.

“They’re concerned about any types of measures that might restrict trade or be protectionist,” he said Wednesday in Albany.

Still, New York’s powerful unions lobbied intensely for the legislation.

Mario Cilento, president of the state AFL-CIO, an umbrella group of unions, said Friday, “This legislation ensures our hard-earned tax dollars are invested back into our own workforce and not sent overseas.”

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