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For House GOP, Repealing Wage Law 'Integral' to Transportation Bill

Negotiations over a $2.5 billion plan to fix Pennsylvania's roads and bridges could include getting rid of state-set wages that increase the cost of road repair projects.

Many House Republicans have long opposed of the state's prevailing wage law, saying it typically sets the pay for public works projects at union rates, and boosts costs to local governments by as much as 20 percent.

As those GOP members look askance at the transportation funding bill before them, they're saying the two issues are related — and repealing prevailing wage may win some votes from Republicans otherwise reluctant to vote for the larger plan and the fee increases and tax cap removal it contains.

"Many of our members and leadership consider that an integral part of the transportation package," said Steve Miskin, House GOP spokesman.

But on that front, they're getting no help from the governor's office. The Corbett administration is sending the kill sign.

"We do not want to see prevailing wage as part of this proposal," PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch told House lawmakers at a recent Transportation Committee hearing. "If it gets to his desk, he said he'd sign it but not as part of this, not as part of the transportation package."

"Well, he ain't going to get the votes," said Rep. Mario Scavello (R-Monroe), who supports efforts to repeal prevailing wage. He said without it in the transportation funding bill, "(Corbett) won't get the votes. I think on our side, our leaders are definitely leaning that way."

That cry may be coming from the rank-and-file, but it's not coming from House GOP leadership, which stops short of threatening to withhold support for transportation funding if it doesn't include changes to the prevailing wage law.

Democrats and union leaders support the prevailing wage law. Union leaders are defending the law as a way to ensure road repair jobs attract highly skilled workers.

"We don't want our public works projects to be done by the person who is the least skilled and making the least amount of money," said Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale.

But Monroe said the prevailing wage law is hurting local governments in his district.

"My municipalities don't have the money to even repave their road because of what it would cost," Scavello said. "So our roads are really taking a hit — and the local roads, that used to be pretty good."

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