Outdated Township Construction Law Costs Taxpayers Money

By Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33)

The Pennsylvania law governing township construction projects is as old as Henry Ford’s Model T, operates as ineffectively as an orchestra without a conductor and equates to a 10% tax on commonwealth residents.

When township governments in Pennsylvania engage in a construction project, they must do so in compliance with a law that was put on the books in 1913. That’s the same year Henry Ford began production of the Model T on an assembly line in Detroit.

Ford thankfully has drastically updated the vehicles it sells. Pennsylvania’s law governing township construction projects meanwhile remains stuck in antiquity.

The law is known as the Separations Act, because it requires separate contractors for general construction, electrical, plumbing, and heating and air conditioning. That is four different contractors with four different areas of expertise, timelines and goals.

Imagine if the four main sections of an orchestra – the strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion – all operated independently based on their own agendas. Rather than music, you would hear noise.

Just as an orchestra requires a conductor, a construction project requires someone to direct the various contractors with a united vision. Under the Separations Act, this responsibility falls on the township.

Pennsylvania is the only state that uses this absurd system. The private sector, 49 other states, and the federal government all enable the use of an overall general contractor to direct the four areas of construction.

Additionally, a broad spectrum of stakeholders in Pennsylvania that includes the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, Keystone Contractors Association, National Federation of Independent Businesses – PA Chapter, and the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, have all weighed in support of ending the single contract mandate for public projects.

There is a reason no one else uses Pennsylvania’s system. Conservative estimates suggest it leads to a 10% increase in construction costs due to inefficiencies, delays and expense overruns. That amounts to a 10% tax on the hard-working taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill for these projects.

While the current system is costly and outdated, there is good news. I am introducing legislation in the Pennsylvania Senate to provide townships and their taxpayers with relief from this ancient and inefficient system by removing the separate-contractor mandate. My bill would enable townships to reduce their construction costs by exempting them from the Separations Act.

It’s time for Pennsylvania to catch up with every other state in America. My legislation would help streamline township construction projects and save taxpayers money.

Pennsylvania should help townships improve the way they award construction contracts by giving the orchestra its conductor. The result will be a reduction in costs for township taxpayers, and that’s music to my ears.

Sen. Doug Mastriano represents the 33rd Senatorial District, covering Adams and Franklin counties, and is introducing legislation to exempt Pennsylvania townships from the Separations Act, a costly and inefficient law that slows down construction projects and increases the cost on taxpayers.

Media contact: Josh Herman


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