In a move that is expected to give a lift to construction in New York state, voters by a wide margin have passed a $4.2-billion statewide bond measure that would fund a range of environmental infrastructure projects around the Empire State.

According to the unofficial tally on Nov. 9 from the New York State Board of Elections, the Proposal 1 measure received about 59% of the vote, with 29% opposed, with 12% leaving the question blank. The board said the count reflect results from about 94% of the state’s election districts.

Of the $4.2-billion total, $1.5 billion would go to mitigate climate change impacts; at least $1.1 billion is allocated for restoration and flood-risk reduction; up to $650 million is earmarked for land conservation and recreation; and at least $650 million is directed to projects to improve water quality and make infrastructure more resilient.

A large coalition that included environmental groups and labor unions backed the initiative, which was one of the largest statewide infrastructure-related measures on ballots this November. 

Julie Tighe, New York League of Conservation Voters president, said that with the bond initiative's funding—which she says is the largest environmental bond measure in the state’s history—“New York will now have the resources in place to pay for projects that safeguard clean drinking water, mitigate the impact of climate change and conserve natural resources, all while creating family-sustaining green jobs.”

Tighe said the measure also has an environmental justice component, to assist disadvantaged neighborhoods that have felt the effects of climate change, pollution and environmental hazards.

Labor Union Support

Patrick Purcell Jr., executive director of the New York State Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust, said in a statement that voters gave the measure “an overwhelming show of support, making it clear they prioritize a safe, healthy New York built by union labor.” 

Purcell noted that besides the substantial infrastructure bond revenue, the Environmental Bond Act has pro-union provisions. They include prevailing-wage requirements on all projects funded by the bonds. Projects valued at $50 million or more also will have apprenticeship requirements.

But project sponsors can choose to opt out of the prevailing-wage mandate by entering into a project labor agreement with organized labor.