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At Hearing, Municipal Officials Propose Prevailing Wage Reform

A group of municipal officials thinks prevailing wage is unnecessarily taking money away from taxpayers.

The officials called for prevailing wage reform at a recent House Labor and Industry Committee hearing.

Under the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act, the pay rate is required for construction, reconstruction, demolition, alteration or repair work that costs at least $25,000.

Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland) said the local municipal officials in his home county have told him they can’t get their projects done because they can’t afford the extra cost prevailing wage imposes on them.

He said the hearing allowed him to talk to municipal officials and found that this is an issue throughout the state.

“The tax dollars that they have do not stretch far enough to cover the necessary projects because prevailing wage is adding anywhere from 10 to 30 percent additional cost on top of what would be the competitive price for those projects, so the tax payers are suffering, they’re getting less work done even though they’re paying the full amount of their taxes,” Bloom said.

Vana Dainty, vice president of the Bellefonte Borough Council, said there is not money in their budget to do any roadwork or paving.

She said Bellefonte increased taxes in the last budget to set aside money for street repairs, which she called “ridiculous.”

Rep. Dan Truitt (R-Chester) said prevailing wage prevents the municipalities from hiring more people to do the projects.

“If they could pay less on a given project, they would just do more projects, so there would be just as much work out there in total dollars for our workers, but it would be spread out over more workers, and I think that’s a better solution when we have the unemployment rates that we have today,” Truitt said.

The officials also said prevailing wages hindered local businesses’ ability to submit bids on projects.

“I think you find that the local people don’t bid on the jobs because they don’t have the manpower to take care of all the extra paperwork, so if you have local, you have better control over the quality, as far as I’m concerned, you may get better quality if that was to go away,” Dainty said.

According to an earlier WESA report, supporters of prevailing wage believe the law ensures public projects attract highly skilled labor.

Joshua Troxell, a supervisor in Patton Township, said that implies there is a correlation between skilled labor and the quality of work.

“I would contend quality of workmanship is more a factor of motivation than skill level,” Troxell said. “If you have a desire, either external or internal, to produce good work, then your work will be of higher quality than someone else.”

There has been a push to include prevailing wage reforms in a transportation funding bill, but the Corbett administration has resisted this.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.