WV House votes to repeal prevailing wage

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

By Phil Kabler, Statehouse Reporter

The House of Delegates voted Wednesday to repeal West Virginia's just-revised Prevailing Wage Act,

even though eight Republicans joined the House's 36 Democrats in voting against the measure.

 

The 55-44 vote followed more than 27% hours of intense debate over the bill (HB 4005).

 

Earlier, the House, on a mostly party-line 61-38 vote, rejected a motion calling for an economic impact

study of the law's repeal. That marked the second time a call for an economic impact study had been

quashed, along with rejections of three motions requesting a fiscal note on the repeal legislation's

impact on state agencies.

 

"Good stewards of the taxpayers' money — we're not even going to take the time to study this," said

Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, after his motion was rejected.

 

"People are hell-bent about shoving this through," Sponaugle said. "It doesn't matter about facts. It

doesn't matter about evidence. It doesn't matter about House rules."

 

"I think there are those who are afraid to find out this is a bad deal for West Virginia and a bad deal for

West Virginia workers," added Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton.

 

Proponents argued that, even with revisions enacted last session — including elimination of the wage

requirement for projects of $500,000 or less — the 81-year-old prevailing wage law continues to

artificially inflate wage rates for construction workers on major state-funded construction projects.

 

"Every tax dollar that's spent comes out of the pocket of taxpayers, and I agree these dollars must be

spent wisely," said House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan. "These wages are inflated, and it's

unfair to the taxpayers."

 

Delegate Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, was more blunt, stating, "Today, you will decide whether to

stand with the taxpayers or with the union bosses."

 

Opponents of the bill repeatedly called the repeal vote a "sad day in West Virginia," and apologized to

the union workers that filled the three House galleries.

 

They cited overwhelming numbers of calls and emails opposing the bill. House Minority Leader Tim

Miley, D-Harrison, noted that only two speakers spoke in favor of the bill at the only public hearing on

the legislation, with one being a representative of Americans for Prosperity, a Koch brothers-funded

political advocacy group.

 

Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, cited a Gazette-Mail advertisement from a number of building

contractors opposing the repeal.

 

"I don't see no labor bosses on this ad. I don't see no labor unions on this ad," Caputo said, holding the

ad aloft. "I see businesses that have been doing business in West Virginia for a long, long time."

 

Miley suggested the conditions that led to passage of prevailing wage in the 1930s are still valid today,

to prevent out-of-state contractors using low-paid labor from coming in and underbidding local

contractors for public construction projects.

 

Delegate Doug Reynolds, D-Cabell, a building contractor, said the cheapest option is rarely the best

option.

 

"The most important thing we can do is assure the public gets an excellent product," Reynolds said. "We

know prevailing wage job sites are safer. There's a clear record of that over time."

 

"I apologize for the tragedy that's before you today," Delegate Michael Ferro, D-Marshall, told the

galleries.

He faulted leadership for not allowing time to assess the impact of new prevailing wage rates, calculated

by WorkForce West Virginia using wage surveys from more than 3,700 state contractors. The new rates

went into effect in October.

 

Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, said the debate was distracting from the real problems facing the

state, including a $120 million funding shortfall for the Public Employees Insurance Agency and budget

deficits in excess of $350 million a year for the current and upcoming 2016-17 budget year.

 

"The point is, we need to be dealing with the problems we have, not the problems you want to create

because you don't like unions," she told the House majority.

 

Delegate Michael Ihle, R-Jackson, countered that the state's dire economics demands repeal of

prevailing wage.

 

"We're desperate. We're broke. 'No' is not good enough," he said.

 

While the bill advanced from its only committee assignment on a party-line 15-9 vote in the

Government Organization Committee, eight Republicans voted with the 36 House Democrats on

Wednesday.

 

Those were: Delegates Ray Canterbury, R-Greenbrier; Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur; Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay;

John Kelly, R-Wood; Matthew Rohrbach, R-Cabell; William Romine, R-Tyler; Erikka Storch, R-Ohio; and

Danny Wagner, R-Barbour. Newly appointed Delegate Bill Flanigan, R-Monongalia, was absent.

 

The bill goes to the Senate, which passed companion legislation to make West Virginia a "right-to-work"

state on a party line 17-16 vote on Jan. 21.

 

The right-to-work bill (SB 1), which would allow workers in union shops to opt out of paying union dues,

is pending in the House Judiciary Committee.

 

Reach Phil Kabler at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 304 348-1220 or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

 

 

Latino Festival 2014

 The Hispanic festival outreach informational booth in St.Louis Mo was a great success due to the Eastern Missouri Laborers organizers. The Organizers handed out Right-to-Work information and stickers, Voter registration forms, and "What it takes to become a Union Laborer" information. Thanks to all the organizers involved in the outreach

 

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