People in West Virginia have less to celebrate this Labor Day holiday. With the repeal of prevailing wage, construction wages have been slashed while state government contracts are being awarded to out-of-state contractors. All the while, a recent study finds that West Virginia taxpayers saved nothing after the elimination of prevailing wage in 2016.
The University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Midwest Economic Policy Institute study finds not only has the state failed to save any money, but it also backs up a previous report by the West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA). The SBA compared school construction costs per square foot and concluded there had been no savings since the prevailing wage was repealed.
Prevailing wage is often misrepresented, and perhaps misunderstood, by many lawmakers in Charleston. Prevailing wage is the local “going rate” for construction work. Essentially, it is a market-based minimum wage with benefits for local construction workers. It assures taxpayers receive a higher standard of workmanship while promoting the hiring of local contractors and workers on publicly funded projects.
If taxpayers have nothing to celebrate this Labor Day, who does? Imported workers who come from out-of-state and take our local jobs are celebrating. Out-of-state contractors, who are performing substandard construction, and in some cases allegedly cheat the state on their taxes, are celebrating. Legislative leaders, who are taking vast amounts of dark money from out of state donors for their political campaigns, are celebrating.
This Labor Day, there are a lot of happy people outside of West Virginia reaping the benefits of state-funded construction projects. Let’s bring back the prevailing wage and give West Virginia taxpayers, area businesses and local construction workers a reason to celebrate.