Prevailing wage passes in Senate

Republicans, Democrats split on vote

This is a repost of an article As seen on The State Journal, Frankfort KY site
By Brad Bowman, Published: January 14, 2016 7:00PM

Unlike the hugely bipartisan support of the bourbon, winery and microbrewing industry in the state, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate stood diametrically opposed to a prevailing wage bill that passed Thursday to the House.

Republican Sen. Wil Schroder of Wilder sponsored the bill exempting public school projects of $250,000 or more from the state’s requirement for the prevailing wage cost to workers.

Saying Kentucky had a precedent for the bill from 1982-1996, the bill’s passage would save the schools throughout the state up to 51 percent in labor costs.

Echoing his testimony earlier this week, Schroder said there is no indication that the quality of the work is compromised when projects don’t pay prevailing wage rates to workers.

“This money that will be saved by Senate Bill 9 could be used by the school districts to do other projects and other things,” Schroder said.

Republican Sen. Mike Wilson of Bowling Green spoke in support of the bill, saying since 2008 when the economy took a turn schools experienced funding losses and the bill would give the Senate a chance to them relief.

“I’ve some contractors that do some of that work that actually live in my district,” Wilson said. “And I’ve asked them does the same people that work on prevailing wage jobs work on non-prevailing wage jobs.”

Wilson said those contractors told him the workers are held to the same quality standards, but the burden of a higher rate of pay rests on the taxpayers.

Democratic Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray Jones of Pikeville spoke in opposition of the bill saying he doesn’t believe it is a anti-union bill but

“The prevailing wage law was created at the federal level in 1931 by two Republican members of congress Sen. James J. Davis...and the other Republican Rep. Robert L. Bacon from New York’s first district,” Jones said.

“After the bill was passed, numerous states followed. Other states that currently have prevailing wage laws would include many members of the majority party (Republicans) tout as states we should look to or emulate in terms of economic development.”

Jones explained Davis and Jones created the act to protect workers from poor working conditions, low wages and migrant workers.

“It was intended so that out of state corporations and out of state construction companies couldn’t come into a community and destabilize the wage rates,” Jones said.

“We hear a lot of talk about the increased costs associated with prevailing wage, but what we do know is when contractors bid on prevailing wage jobs they can’t make cuts, they can’t make bids on the backs of construction workers who are doing the job. If this bill passes it will affect approximately 75,000 Kentucky workers...I see it as the anti-worker bill.”

Notably, Sen. Rand Paul’s Senate Amendment 19 to the FAA Air Modernization and Safety Improvement Act in 2011 would have exempted the Federal Aviation Administration from the Davis-Bacon Act’s provision of prevailing wage but was defeated by 13 votes. 

The bill passed with a majority of 26 votes to 11 opposing votes. 

As seen on The State Journal, Frankfort KY site
By Brad Bowman, Published: January 14, 2016 7:00PM