New Jersey P3 bill stumbles on labour issues

Governor Christie has conditionally vetoed a bill aimed at expanding the state’s existing P3 legislation.

Language pertaining to prevailing wage provisions and project labour agreements proved to be a stumbling block in New Jersey’s attempt to expand its existing public-private partnership (PPP; P3) legislation.

Bill S-2489 passed through the state legislature but did not make it past Governor Chris Christie’s desk, who refused to sign it – sending it back to the upper chamber with the recommendation that the provisions imposing prevailing wage requirements and mandating project labour agreements be removed from the bill in order to “ensure competitive bidding for projects and reduce project costs”.

“This bill expands the P3 programme the Legislature and I put into place in 2010 with amendments to the Economic Stimulus Act, and furthered with the Economic Opportunity Act,” Christie wrote in the conditional veto of the bill that was first introduced in October 2014.

According to the Governor, the programme has been successfully implemented at various higher-education facilities around the state. The proposed legislation would expand that programme to include local projects as well as transportation infrastructure projects.

Christie also recommended that in addition to the Economic Development Authority which the bill’s sponsors mentioned specifically, the state departments of transportation, education and community affairs should also take a leading role for these projects to ensure a unified plan of development across the state.

“I am steadfast in my full support of the use of P3s and encourage the sponsors to accept these changes so that the economic development we have worked so hard to foster under this Administration can continue to blossom and provide jobs for New Jersey’s hardworking residents,” Christie said.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who along with Senator Jim Whelan initially co-sponsored the bill, expressed his disappointment in the Governor’s decision.

“I believe that public-private partnerships are an innovative way to maximize the impact of resources to create jobs and generate economic growth,” Sweeney said in a statement.

“This would be good for New Jersey because it would permit a wider array of entities to advance critical infrastructure and facilities projects,” he added, noting however that prevailing wage provisions and project labour agreements are also important.

“They protect the ability of workers to be treated fairly and paid fair wages. The best way to achieve economic growth and opportunity is to ensure that everyone benefits, including the men and women who make up the workforce,” he said.

It was unclear whether Sweeney and the Senate would consider incorporating the governor’s recommended changes or whether the bill would be dropped. A spokesperson for Senator Sweeney had not responded to a request for comment by press time.