Prospects for the state expanding the prevailing wage to apply to private development projects were dim on Thursday with Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying it appeared dead.
The Buffalo Niagara Partnership, which contends expanding the prevailing wage would harm upstate development projects, had a measured response to Thursday's developments in Albany.
"As long as they're in session, anything can happen," said Dottie Gallagher, the Partnership's president and CEO. "I certainly am encouraged by the change in language. To go from done deal to unlikely is progress. If they close session and haven't done anything, we just live to fight another day."
Lawmakers have debated whether to extend the prevailing wage from public projects like highway work to private development projects receiving incentives, like tax breaks and brownfield tax credits.
A deal appeared on track on Wednesday. Under that agreement, the prevailing wage would have applied to private projects where state and/or local incentives added up to at least 30 percent of a project's cost, for projects over $750,000. New York City would have been exempted from the requirement. The changes would have taken effect July 1, 2020, if the legislation had been passed and signed into law.
But the outlook was very different on Thursday, with some lawmakers objecting to exempting New York City.
Gallagher said she felt the "backlash on the New York City carve-out exceeded anyone's expectations."
"I think the optics just looked terrible," she said.
Cuomo on a Thursday morning radio show indicated he didn't think the legislation would pass. But lawmakers who support expanding the prevailing wage were scrambling to salvage the effort.
"We’re still going to see if we can try and figure something out on prevailing wage," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, on Thursday afternoon.
Unions were pushing for the bill, and developers and other economic development executives, especially upstate, looked to derail it.
Cuomo said Assembly Democrats did not want to do the bill because he wanted to exclude New York City from the new prevailing wage requirements; many lawmakers from upstate, including Assembly Democrats, were opposed to Cuomo's prevailing wage plan because they said it would halt many development projects and cost jobs.
Opponents of the legislation claimed the cost associated with higher wages would offset the benefit of the incentives developers would receive to carry out complex, expensive projects. Supporters contend the legislation would boost the economy by putting more money in workers' pockets.
News Albany Bureau Chief Tom Precious contributed to this report.