Members of the New York Building Trades on Tuesday lobbied in Albany to push for a bill that revises the definition of public work in order to give workers expanded wages and benefits.

In essence, the legislation would provide a prevailing wage to workers who are part of a greater range of projects.

The bill’s sponsors, Assemblyman Harry Bronson and Sen. Terrence Murphy, argue the measure is meant to clear up the definition of public works projects that have been “undermined” by judicial rulings.

“The New York State Constitution makes clear that it is the public policy of New York to pay the prevailing wage to those working on state financed construction projects, so as not to undermine the cost of local labor,” the bill memo states. “In spite of this policy, employees working on publicly financed projects are presently receiving the prevailing wage due to judicial opinions which have undermined the law’s original intent. This bill would remedy the present situation by adding a clear definition of ‘public work’ subject to this article.”

The bill is meant to create a “bright line test” for project definitions, including whether it is paid for in whole or part using public funding and if the construction is being done with a public entity leasing a portion of the space from the final development.

“Right now, the state’s taxpayers are being short-changed by economic development programs that ignore, and even undermine, the state’s construction workers,” said James Cahill, President of the New York State Building and Construction Trades Council. “It’s time to define public work to make sure construction workers on projects financed by or subsidized by state resources receive fair wages and benefits.”

Updated: Business groups, however, disagree with the push for this bill.

The Rochester-based Unshackle Upstate in a report released late last year found the cost increases would hurt the state’s economy.

“Despite the unnecessary cost increases associated with the prevailing wage law, special interests in Albany are pushing for prevailing wage to be expanded to projects that are not entirely paid for with public funds. Such an expansion is not only bad for the overall health of New York State’s already sluggish economy, it would force many private construction companies out of business.

Members of the coalition stand ready to work with state policymakers and other interested parties to ensure New York is best positioned to meet its infrastructure needs, while at the same time protecting taxpayer dollars and limiting waste.”