Lawmakers Push For Change In Pa.’s Prevailing Wage

York Dispatch

Pennsylvania’s prevailing wage rules force taxpayers to subsidize worker income just because it’s a public project, a York County lawmaker argues.

State Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, is sponsoring a bill and supporting another that he hopes will rein in prevailing wage spending.

In Miller’s bill, the prevailing wage rate for each county would be set using local instead of statewide data to get a more accurate portrayal of rates.

Prevailing wage workers “are only getting paid more because it’s getting paid

by the taxpayers,” Miller said. “Why do they get more?”

In a bill sponsored by Rep. John Bear, R-Lancaster, classifications and descriptions for jobs subject to the Prevailing Wage Act would be more clearly defined, as the lawmakers believe there has been confusion about what qualifies for a prevailing wage job.

How it works: The Pennsylvania State Prevailing Wage law requires that all workers be paid the state-assigned prevailing wage on state funded construction projects that exceed $25,000; the bar is only $2,000 if federal funding is involved.

The prevailing wage is determined by the average union pay for a given job. It’s applied whether the work force is union or non-union.

Maintenance projects are not subject to prevailing wage. Milling and repaving a road are considered construction projects.

Both bills are before the House Labor and Industry Committee, where Miller is the chairman. The proposals also include raising the prevailing wage threshold to $185,000, since the $25,000 mark was set more than 50 years ago.

Small municipalities get smacked with big bills for projects because of prevailing wage, Miller contends, and it tacks on cost to school construction.

Raising the threshold, clarifying the rules and using local data should all help save taxpayer dollars, Miller believes.

For instance, a borough that needs to pave one street for $100,000 would not have to pay prevailing wage rates if they pass, Miller said.

Keep quality work: Frank Sirianni, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council, said prevailing wage gets an unfair rap.

Prevailing wage doesn’t always make the salaries higher, he said. And it’s in place to provide fair compensation.

“It’s the prevailing wage. It’s not the lowest wage act,” said Sirianni, who testified at a hearing on the bills. “This is what the standards in the state are. The competition (for projects) has a level playing field.”

Sirianni said changing the law could effect the quality of work. Prevailing wage has meant companies send their best workers to help justify the higher wage.

“If you’re charging $20 an hour, you’re going to make sure the best guy goes,” he said.

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