A week ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo had two bills sitting on his desk aimed at helping minority- and woman-owned business enterprises, or MWBEs. One he signed, the other he vetoed.

The legislation that became law raises the threshold for New York City government contracts that requires contractors to go through a competitive bidding process. The new law, sponsored by state Sen. Marisol Alcántara and Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman, raises the new threshold to $150,000, up from $20,000, which could allow the city award more contracts to MWBEs on a discretionary basis. 

“For a long time, minority and women-owned businesses have gone through what can at times be a lengthy process for city contracts,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Today, after strong advocacy by members of my administration, members of the state Legislature, advocacy groups, and countless MWBEs, the state has expanded economic opportunity for MWBEs by easing the burden of the time-consuming, bidding process for small purchases – a process that can hinder an owner’s ability to stay focused on growing and sustaining their business. This new authority will mean less time focused on bureaucratic paperwork and more time focused on expanding business.”

In an approval statement, Cuomo wrote that the original text of the bill would have excluded state-certified MWBEs from participating in city contracts. But he reached an agreement with the Legislature to pass legislation next year that addresses this concern, so under those terms, Cuomo signed the bill.

The MWBE bill Cuomo vetoed would have removed a requirement that a business owners have a personal net worth of under $3.5 million in order to get state certification. This would have opened up more MWBEs to become certified by the state. Although the bill passed with broad bipartisan support, Cuomo, in a lengthy veto statement, outlined what he called “fundamental flaws” that made the legislation impossible to pass, including opening up the MWBE program to “legal challenge” by removing personal net worth as a qualifying factor.  

Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, chairwoman of the Oversight of Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises Subcommittee and sponsor of the legislation, said in a press release she found the governor’s veto “deeply discouraging.” She argued that the bill would have made it easier for minority and women business owners “to compete with larger contractors and continue to thrive.”

“New York City, which has a robust MWBE procurement program with billions of  dollars of government contracting opportunities, does not have a personal net worth cap or any type of threshold,” Bichotte said. “Of the 27 states with MWBE programs, New York State is 1 of only 2 states in the country that also underwent the highest scrutiny standard, i.e. a disparity study, that has included a personal net worth cap in its statute.”