Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying again to make major reforms to a state law
that benefits minority- and women-owned businesses, but his chances are
presumably better because Democrats now control both houses of the
Cuomo, a Democrat, pushed for the changes last year, including setting
goals for hiring specific minority groups on state contracts — such as “black
men,” “Hispanic women” and “Caucasian women” — and penalizing
contractors that don’t make a “good faith effort” to fulfill the goals.
Cuomo also wants to deter fraud through tougher enforcement and
broaden the program to include hiring goals for all municipalities when
they spend state money on contracts. The law would be extended to Dec.
31, 2024 if approved by the Legislature.
The Democrat-controlled Assembly supported the measures last year but
Republicans who led the Senate only approved extending the program,
known as MWBE, until Dec. 31, 2019 as part of the budget deal with
Republicans lost a majority of Senate seats in the November election, and
now the chamber is controlled by Democrats. The Assembly remains
firmly in control of Democrats.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the new Senate majority leader, is the first
woman to lead the chamber.
Stewart-Cousins has championed minority- and women-owned
businesses, including creating a task force in 2017 when she served as
In her Jan. 9 speech on the floor of the Senate when she was elected
majority leader, Stewart-Cousins said, “We are going to reduce mandates
on local governments. And we are going to help our small businesses
It’s unclear whether Stewart-Cousins supports all of the reforms that
Cuomo wants to see in the 2019-20 budget. Her spokeswoman didn’t
return a call for comment.
Cuomo’s proposals are opposed by the Associated General Contractors of
New York, a trade group that represents building and highway contractors.
The AGC was among 30 construction and economic development trade
associations that worked to block the reforms in the Senate last year.
Michael Elmendorf, president and CEO of the AGC of New York, said today
he hasn’t spoken with Stewart-Cousins about the issue since she became
Senate majority leader.
“Last year we probably spent nearly as much time talking to Senate
Democrats as we did Senate Republicans,” Elmendorf said. “I think there
are areas of mutual concern here. I don’t think there’s anyone in the
Legislature that does not support the goals of the MWBE program.”
The AGC supports the intent of spreading opportunities to minority- and
women-owned businesses that were discriminated against for decades in
state contracts, but opposes how the program is administered.
The trade group also argues Cuomo’s goal of awarding 30 percent of state
contracts to MWBE firms is unrealistic, especially upstate because of
demographics, and points to the large number of waivers issued by the
state as evidence of the shortfalls.
Cuomo touts the administration’s success since revamping the program
when he took office in 2011. State contract spending on MWBEs has
increased from less than $100 million to $2.6 billion. New York has the
highest MWBE contract participation rate in the United States, 28.6
percent, according to the governor’s office.