In a historic move, the House Labor and Industry Committee passed six Prevailing Wage Reform bills Oct. 5, which will now move to the House floor for a vote. The Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act, instituted in 1961, requires that workers on public construction projects be paid the prevailing rate for their labor. However, this rate is typically the wage set by the unions, and is much higher than the actual market rate for such work, leaving taxpayers paying 30 percent higher rates than necessary, translating to approximately $1 billion annually.
The bills the House will consider are:
• HB 1271: Defines “maintenance work” to include road repairs, reducing the number of projects subject to Prevailing Wage Act requirements.
• HB 1685: Requires using better-defined classifications to clarify application of the law to jobs on construction sites.
• HB 1329: Raises the minimum amount to which the Prevailing Wage Act applies to $185,000 (from $25,000) and adjusts for inflation in future years.
• HB 1541: Exempts projects from the Prevailing Wage Act, where more than half the funding comes from private sources.
• HB 709: Allows school districts to opt out of the Prevailing Wage Act for school construction projects.
• HB 1191: Allows all local governments to opt out of the Prevailing Wage Act.
In honor of this move, a “Prevailing Wage Birthday Party” was held, in the Harrisburg Capitol Building Rotunda. The theme was that of a bill turning 50, without having changed to reflect current economic and industry trends.
Among the speakers present will be House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, Majority Whip Stan Saylor, Representative John Bear and Chairman Ron Miller of the House Labor and Industry Committee.
ABC Keystone Chapter President and CEO John “Jack” R. Zimmer said, “The Prevailing Wage Act of 1961 should be called the Prevailing WASTE Act and I commend the House leadership for bringing these positive reforms forward. Passage of these bills dramatically improves this archaic law so that construction companies can more easily be in full compliance with the intent of the law, so that L&I enforcement can be more transparent and consistent with the administering of this law, and most importantly, so wasteful government spending is brought under control to ease the burden on the taxpayers in this Commonwealth. Not one of these bills attacks the actual wages of the construction workers so don’t be fooled by the same old union rhetoric.”
Also speaking at this event was ABC National Chairman Michael Uremovich, in support of these reforms.
“The prevailing wage reform bills now before the Pennsylvania House represent a win for taxpayers. By allowing construction projects to operate more efficiently, public works projects will be able to take advantage of the industry’s best practices, realizing efficient and timely completion of construction projects, creating value and cost savings for taxpayers. By eliminating the unnecessary burdens on publically funded projects, construction firms will be able to focus on what Pennsylvania really needs: getting people back to work,” Uremovisch said.