Design-Build should expire and return to Legislative Purview
Current law authorizes carte-blanche authority for a limited number of state agencies to circumvent competitive bidding for construction. This was initially passed in a special session in December of 2011, was extended for a short period and is now set to expire. This alternative to competitive bidding is known as design-build and the executive budget proposes to make the law permanent, expand the types of eligible projects and expand it to every state agency, public authority, SUNY, CUNY and each county outside New York City.
The New York State AFL-CIO has long opposed granting authority of any government entity to end-round competitive bidding laws because enforcement and oversight of labor protections are closely tied to competitive bidding. Just as important, competitive bidding laws provide transparency and public oversight of the contracting process to ensure it is open and fair. Design-build weakens labor protections by changing this process.
Proponents claim design-build allows faster project approval at a savings. There is no evidence that shows savings or that any approved projects would not have happened otherwise. Design-build simply makes it easier for bids that may not reflect the true cost of a project be approved because design-build awards contracts on the subjective basis of “best value” as opposed to the more objective “lowest responsible bidder”. This in fact opens the door to costlier bids and to bidders with bad labor records or bad environmental, insurance or minority and women hiring histories.
In limited circumstances, design-build may make sense. In those instances, the legislature and executive have always had the ability to approve design-build contracting but at the same time ensure all of the appropriate worker and relevant protections are in place. It is time to return to that process and allow the design-build law to expire.
Mario Cilento, President