Talk about unintended consequences.
On the surface, it might seem like a great idea for the next state budget to require all construction projects that receive state money or incentives to pay workers prevailing wage — essentially the hourly pay received by local union workers. But neither a proposal to do so nor the effort to cram it into the state budget is a great idea.
While the legislation could make union labor more competitive with nonunion shops that offer lower wages, it also could increase business, construction and housing costs by an estimated 25 percent.
If done poorly, requiring prevailing wages could deal an economic blow, potentially making the construction of affordable housing, multifamily developments and big projects like the Nassau Hub more difficult. Especially after Amazon’s withdrawal from Long Island City, the region can’t afford another big misstep.
Yet four Long Island state senators — Sens. John Brooks, James Gaughran, Anna Kaplan and Monica Martinez — co-sponsored the legislation.
Perhaps state lawmakers didn’t consider the potential implications when they signed on to the bill, which they likely saw as a benefit for organized labor. But now they must find a way forward, starting by arranging conversations between labor and business leaders to find middle ground that doesn’t damage regional economic development.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has supported a prevailing wage measure, and state lawmakers should give this issue more time and attention. That likely means waiting until after the April 1 budget deadline. Albany is always full of last-minute, hurried hubbub. But on this issue, everyone should slow down.
— The editorial board