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Abolish Scaffold Law to fund universal pre-K

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recently released executive budget includes an initiative for universal pre-K, and over the next few months, the governor and Legislature will fight about how to pay for it. Our elected officials need look no further than the New York City School Construction Authority, which recently disclosed that it will waste 7 percent of its budget, nearly $140 million, because of an outdated law that exists only in New York.

The law is the Scaffold Law, and it holds contractors and property owners (like schools) absolutely liable for construction injuries, even if someone else was at fault. The law has led to a crisis in the insurance market. Prices are skyrocketing and several insurers have stopped offering coverage in New York altogether.

This crisis adds to the cost of every building project in the state. In addition to the cost of schools, the Scaffold Law is expected to add $200 million to $400 million to the cost of the Tappan Zee Bridge. It is also estimated that the law adds $10,000 to the cost of building every new home.

As New York taxpayers, we pay for this waste. As Western New Yorkers, our own infrastructure and education dollars are squandered on this obsolete law.

We need to reform this law. We need to make liability proportional to fault, just as it is done in every other state and nearly every other part of our civil justice system. In doing so, legislators could ensure education money is spent on education, not lawsuits and insurance.

Joseph W. Benedict Jr.

Associate Director

Construction Exchange

of Buffalo & WNY, Inc.