WV Center on Budget and Policy > Blog > Budget Beat – January 30, 2015

Budget Beat – January 30, 2015

State Senate (Almost) Takes Up Bill to Repeal Prevailing Wage

This week SB 361, a bill that would repeal the state’s prevailing wage, was on the Senate Government Organization Committee agenda. While the controversial bill was not taken up, it likely be next week.

According to a new WVCBP report out this week, “West Virginia’s Prevailing Wage: Good for Business, Good for Workers,” West Virginia lawmakers considering a repeal of the state’s long-standing prevailing wage are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, and could end up hurting working families and our local economy.

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Supporters of the bill argue that eliminating the prevailing wage will save taxpayers money by lowering costs on public construction projects. As the graph shows, however, school construction costs in West Virginia are already lower than non-prevailing wage states.

PW Figure 1

Here are the report’s key findings:

  • Multiple academic studies have shown that prevailing wage laws do not raise public construction costs; instead the impact of higher wages on costs is compensated by the positive effect on productivity.
  • West Virginia’s school construction costs are lower than its surrounding states, including Virginia, which does not have a prevailing wage law and Ohio, which exempts school construction from its prevailing wage law.
  • Claims by opponents about the costs of West Virginia’s prevailing wage law are implausible and based on hypothetical assumptions, ignoring actual experience, evidence and data.
  • Construction workers in West Virginia work an average of 1,760 hours per year. Using wage rates from the Occupational and Employment Statistics data rather than the current prevailing wage rates would result in poverty-level incomes for many construction occupations.
  • The repeal of prevailing wage laws leads to less workforce training, less experience in the workforce, higher injury rates, lower health and pension coverage, and lower wages.

Read more in this week’s Charleston Gazette, Charleston Daily Mail and the State Journal. Tune into the Legislature Today at 6PM tonight to hear Sean O’Leary talk about this week’s report.

Here’s next week’s budget hearings (in respective Finance Committee rooms):

2/2/2015
2:00 PM – Attorney General’s Office (House)
3:00 PM – Department of Commerce (Senate)
3:00 PM – Veterans’ Department (House)

2/3/2015
3:00 PM – Senior Services (Senate)
3:45 PM – Veterans’ Department (Senate)

2/4/2015
9:00 AM – Department of Administration (House)
2:00 PM – Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety (House)
3:00 PM – Department of Transportation (Senate)
3:45 PM – Parkways Authority (Senate)

2/5/2015
9:45 AM – Arts and Education (Senate)
3:00 PM – Department of Administration (Senate)
3:45 PM – Department of Environmental Protection (Senate)

2/6/2015
9:00 AM – Department of Soil Conservation (House)
10:00 AM – Department of Agriculture (House)

West Virginia Targeted in Push for Balanced Budget Amendment

There’s a national push for calling on Congress to convene a constitutional convention of the states, with the goal of adopting a balanced budget amendment (BBA). Opponents say that there is no consensus among legal scholars that either the states or Congress can control what happens once a convention is convened, with actions taken going beyond the stated goal of passing a BBA. Read more about this threat to the U.S. Constitution in this blog post by Ted Boettner and Betty Rivard.

Reminder: Second Chance to See The First 1,000 Days

Kids and Families Day featured the world premiere of “The First 1,000 Days: Investing in WV Children When it Counts.” In case you missed it, the film’s television premiere is Monday, February 2 at 9 PM on your public broadcasting station. The film features our very own Ted Boettner!

Here’s more from WV Public Broadcasting and you can watch the trailer here.

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