Faso Introduces Infrastructure Expansion Act to Expand Federal Infrastructure Funds in New York State

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Washington, D.C., September 19, 2017 | comments
“As people and businesses flee our state it is hard to fathom why New York State would continue to impose these unnecessary liability insurance costs on our citizens. New York is the only state that imposes this costly mandate which continues to incentivize people, businesses and jobs to flee our state. New York State is plagued with an old and decaying public infrastructure and a property tax burden and business costs which makes New York the single worst state in the nation in which to do business. The Scaffold Law also drives up insurance costs for homeowners, raising the cost of a new, single-family home by between $5000 and $10000. This antiquated law greatly increases the costs of all public construction projects and has greatly limited the number of liability insurance carriers even willing to write insurance policies in our state. This law doesn’t even promote a safer workplace environment for construction workers, as our state is no safer for workers than the 49 other states which don’t have this liability statute. We can create more construction jobs and fund additional projects in New York if we aren’t wasting taxpayer dollars.”
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Washington, D.C. – Congressman John Faso (R-Kinderhook) announced the introduction of innovative, new legislation entitled the “Infrastructure Expansion Act,” which would relieve some of the negative effects of New York State’s Scaffold Law by imposing a liability standard of comparative negligence on all construction projects that receive federal financial assistance. This legislation is directly intended to reduce the cost of new construction – both public and private – which is subsidized using federal funds.  The proposal would ensure that any project using federal dollars is not subject to New York law mandating “absolute liability” on the building owners and contractors.

Congressman Faso announced the legislation at a press conference in Albany today alongside industry and non-profit business leaders who have been champions for the repeal of the antiquated Scaffold Law in New York State for years.  This legislation – the first of its kind ever offered at the federal level to address this issue – would affect projects funded with federal money in New York State.  With the Congress and the Trump Administration likely to enact federal infrastructure legislation, it is essential that federal tax dollars no longer be wasted paying for unnecessary liability insurance costs in New York State.  New York is the only state in the union with an absolute or strict liability standard for gravity-related construction site injuries.  This standard is estimated to raise construction costs in New York by approximately 7%, thereby wasting taxpayer dollars and limiting the size and scope of many projects due to unnecessary liability insurance costs.  The critical Gateway project – twin rail tunnels between New York City and New Jersey – costing approximately $13 billion, will cost hundreds of millions more due to New York’s liability statute unless the Faso legislation is enacted.

Congressman Faso: “As people and businesses flee our state it is hard to fathom why New York State would continue to impose these unnecessary liability insurance costs on our citizens. New York is the only state that imposes this costly mandate which continues to incentivize people, businesses and jobs to flee our state. New York State is plagued with an old and decaying public infrastructure and a property tax burden and business costs which makes New York the single worst state in the nation in which to do business. The Scaffold Law also drives up insurance costs for homeowners, raising the cost of a new, single-family home by between $5000 and $10000. This antiquated law greatly increases the costs of all public construction projects and has greatly limited the number of liability insurance carriers even willing to write insurance policies in our state.  This law doesn’t even promote a safer workplace environment for construction workers, as our state is no safer for workers than the 49 other states which don’t have this liability statute. We can create more construction jobs and fund additional projects in New York if we aren’t wasting taxpayer dollars.”

John T. McDonald III, Member NYS Assembly 108th District: “New York State continues to be the only state in the nation to hold on to the outdated Scaffold Law in spite of the many worker safety actions secured by labor and government over several decades. This complex topic has caused a polarizing approach to addressing the high cost of construction which is unfortunate as public dollars invested in affordable housing, bridge repair, road replacement, clean water infrastructure and more are minimized to a degree by exorbitant insurance premiums. I will continue to work with my government colleagues at all levels of government to address this issue striving for greater transparency of insurance companies, safer worksites for employees and spending the public money on projects and not on premiums.”

Mike Elmendorf, President & CEO of the Associated General Contractors of New York State (AGC NYS): “New York’s construction industry applauds Congressman John Faso for his leadership and courage in introducing legislation to address at the federal level the manifest injustice and waste of the absolute liability standard of New York’s ‘Scaffold Law.’  The only-in-New York Scaffold Law has cost our state billions, needlessly driving up the cost of every construction project in the state, public and private, and undermining our ability to rebuild our roads, bridges, schools, communities and economy.  It has also been proven to actually make construction sites less safe.  Fixing this ridiculous law will protect taxpayers and all our citizens, the economy and construction workers.  Enough talk.  Enough waste.  Let’s get it done.”

Denise Richardson, Executive Director, The General Contractors Association of New York: “It is unfortunate that New York remains the only state in the union that suffers from a law crafted in and for another century.   It grossly distorts the cost of every facet of construction – unnecessarily doubling the cost of insurance -- and unfairly casting blame on one party whether deserved or not.   If reform can’t, or won’t come from Albany, then we applaud the effort by Congressman Faso to even the New York playing field with 49 other states.”

John Banks, President, Real Estate Board of New York: “For too long, the Scaffold Law has been a financial drain on infrastructure dollars. We thank Congressman Faso for his leadership and support his effort to reform this antiquated measure that stands in the way of New York’s ability to improve our aging infrastructure and maintain our competitive advantage.”

Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., President and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc: “Reforming the antiquated, unjust, and costly Scaffold Law would immediately lower the cost of doing business in New York and make our state more competitive. Despite support in both state houses, reform legislation has yet to pass. That is why we applaud Congressman Faso for tackling this issue at the federal level. Scaffold Law reform is about fairness, and ensuring New York State businesses are able to compete with a level playing field. It is absurd that New York remains the only state in the union to hold businesses and government to absolute liability, even when there is clear negligence by the employee. Not only will this legislation drive down costs for federally-assisted construction projects in New York State, we are hopeful it will encourage state lawmakers to finally reform the law and apply to construction projects the same contributory negligence standards that apply to other types of claims in New York State. We thank Congressman Faso for his leadership and look forward to the bill’s passage.”

Jolie Milstein, President & CEO, New York State Association for Affordable Housing: “As New York's statewide housing crisis grows even more urgent, we urge all stakeholders to step up and enable more affordable housing production by finally reforming the Scaffold Law. Our state cannot fully address this crisis and support low- and middle-income New Yorkers unless we take every sensible step forward, including long-overdue Scaffold Law reform.”

Judith Nelson, President & CEO, Habitat for Humanity of New York State: “The Scaffold Law’s ‘absolute liability’ standard remains one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to affordable housing and disaster relief. After Superstorm Sandy we struggled to find insurance for our partners and volunteers. Changing these archaic laws will assist organizations like Habitat for Humanity with more viable and economical solutions to fulfilling the housing needs of New York’s families.”

Kathryn Wylde, President & CEO, Partnership for New York City: “As regions across the country look to improve transportation, roads, bridges and create new housing, we need creative ways to leverage public funding and encourage collaboration between the public and private sectors. The Infrastructure Expansion Act offers an important tool for overcoming some of the obstacles to efficient, cost effective construction of critical projects, such as the Gateway connection between New York and New Jersey, and is a safeguard against wasting taxpayer dollars.”

Peter A. Baynes, Executive Director, New York State Conference of Mayors (NYCOM):  "Rather than ensuring job safety, New York's Scaffold Law rewards a worker's unsafe actions. NYCOM supports any efforts, such as Congressman Faso's, to prohibit absolute liability and instead establish a comparative negligence standard for personal injury, property damage or wrongful death actions.  NYCOM applauds Congressman Faso for advancing legislation that would protect property taxpayers by creating a more equitable standard on federally-funded projects, holding workers who directly contribute to their injury liable for their proportionate share of fault."

Joshua Reap, Associated Builders & Contractors, Empire State Chapter: “Scaffold Law exists only here and does not make anyone safer. The draconian law doesn’t reflect the advances in safety, regulations and training that have happened since it was put into law over a century ago. Instead, Scaffold Law drives up costs and prevents a lot of construction from happening. Albany will continue to dance around this issue. Congressman Faso’s plan to exempt Scaffold Law on certain projects will bring some relief to the problem and could serve as a model for Albany politicians to follow.”

Tom Stebbins, Executive Director, Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York: “For years we’ve been joined by advocates representing every facet of New York’s economy – from hospitals, to school boards, to mayors – to urge the legislative fix to the Scaffold Law’s money wasting inequities. As our state is in the midst of a transportation infrastructure crisis it is time to put politics aside and finally get rid of this legal abnormality. The flood of litigation the Scaffold Law attracts drives up costs on every construction project in the state while increasing the risk of work-site injury. The truth is, the law benefits no one except the personal injury trial lawyers that profit from lawsuits. We applaud Rep. Faso and Assemblyman McDonald for this bi-partisan effort to finally bring New York’s civil justice system in line with the other 49 states in the union.”

For information and an FAQ on the Infrastructure Expansion Act click here.
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