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PLAs Will Kneecap SUNY/CUNY Innovation

On Tuesday, Governor Hochul delivered her FY-25 Budget Address. As we continue to sift through her proposals, we're pleased to see her plan to allocate $2.4 Billion for SUNY and CUNY projects. This funding is crucial and will significantly benefit institutions such as the University at Buffalo, Buffalo State, Fredonia State, and ECC, currently facing declining enrollments and other challenges. The legislature cannot torpedo the potential benefit of this funding by passing legislation that would mandate Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on these projects.

While supporters of PLAs claim they ensure workers are getting paid the correct wage, this is not true. All workers on public projects get paid the prevailing wage regardless of a PLA mandate. PLAs discriminate against most construction workers living in New York and drive up construction costs.

PLAs force contractors to hire most of the workforce for a project, typically three out of every four employees, from the union hall. Over 75% of construction workers in New York are not part of a union (© 2024 by Barry T. Hirsch, David A. Macpherson, and William E. Even). As a result, most contractors refuse to bid on PLA work because they cannot use their employees. This is a major problem because every penny allocated $2.4 billion is your tax dollars. Our legislature must be fiscally responsible with our hard-earned money. PLAs significantly increase the construction cost for these projects by eliminating competition during the bidding process, essentially lighting our tax money on fire.

Cornell Professor Paul Carr conducted a study to understand the relationship between the final cost of a project and the number of bidders. He analyzed hundreds of public works projects in New York and found that if the number of bidders is reduced by even two, it adds more than 4% to the final project cost. If most contractors refuse to bid, there will be much more than a 4% increase in the final price.

Our local campuses are already suffering the consequences of the out-migration crisis, taking the form of declining enrollment rates. Every cent of funding is crucial to address this crisis; if the legislature enforces PLAs on these projects, they will waste taxpayer dollars and fail our crucial higher education system. They must prioritize our campuses' needs and ensure that tax dollars are maximized.