The following editorial by Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen) to urge the state Assembly to vote against a costly and destructive expansion of Project Labor Agreements was published in the Bergen Record on Sunday:
ON JAN. 14, many of my colleagues and I voted against an expansion of project labor agreements, which allow elected officials to funnel more public projects to labor unions of their choice.
Both the motivation and consequences of this bill are equally destructive to bipartisan Sandy recovery efforts. Senate Democrats called a vote on this measure because Governor Christie recently received a labor union endorsement that they felt entitled to, and that union justly opposes this bill.
I oppose this bill because it tilts the playing field in favor of 14 percent of the workforce that is unionized and against 86 percent of non-unionized workers struggling in the aftermath of the Great Recession and superstorm Sandy.
It is appalling that this is the only Sandy recovery bill that the Senate Democrats posted for a vote. Ironically, it increases the cost of recovery projects; it is a direct burden to Sandy victims, New Jersey families and their communities. Plus, the added cost of PLAs may eliminate other necessary public projects and the jobs that they create.
If this measure were justified, cost-effective or for the greater good, wouldn’t it require elected officials and authorities to expand their use of PLAs? Instead, it allows certain officials to provide millions of public dollars to campaign donors or to reject firms that don’t contribute political money or support.
The public is gravely misled by legislative Democrats, who deny political motivations and refuse to acknowledge even the possibility that PLAs make projects more expensive.
PLAs fundamentally swell project costs because they eliminate competition. They increase the cost of construction projects by between 10 and 35 percent, according to various reports; a recent state Department of Labor report determined increases at 30.5 percent. If you won’t take the current administration’s data, maybe you will trust the findings of ex-Gov. Jon Corzine’s Labor Department, which reported PLAs hike project costs by as much as 34 percent.
National University System Institute for Policy Research found PLAs increased New York and California school projects by around 15 percent, and the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University found those projects cost 20 percent more. Both institutes accounted for geographic cost differences, school size, inflation, cost overruns and other potential variables; they discovered significant cost increases per square foot.
This Legislature should not make it more expensive and burdensome for our overtaxed residents to recover from Sandy. I urge Assembly members to consider common sense above politics and vote no on this bill.