Prevailing wage repeal bill passes House after emotional debate

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Prevailing wage repeal bill passes House after emotional debate
By Hoppy Kercheval | MetroNews

The House of Delegates Wednesday passed legislation repealing the state’s prevailing wage law that sets hourly pay rates for workers on state-funded projects.  The bill (HB 4005) now goes to the Senate.

The 55-44 vote followed an emotional debate on the House floor between supporters and opponents of the legislation as labor union members and business backers looked on from the gallery.

Delegate Eric Householder (R-Berkeley, 64) argued that repealing prevailing wage will reduce the cost of public projects, such as schools.

“This bill will save the taxpayers money by allowing competition to exist with a market wage, not a mandated wage,” Householder said.

He added that “no longer will our West Virginia taxpayers have to pay artificial wage rates set by un-elected bureaucrats who cater to big labor.”

That brought a response from Del. Mike Caputo (D-Marion, 50), who is a United Mine Workers Union officer.

“I heard someone…say they don’t think it’s going to affect wages.  Well, what else is it going to affect?”

Caputo added, “I never thought I would see the day that we would be debating an issue that is going to take money out of the pockets of working West Virginians.”

Lawmakers compromised on a restructuring of prevailing wage last year, but Republicans believe the new calculation  from Workforce West Virginia still represents artificially high rates, so this session they are pushing complete repeal.

Those backing repeal say market-based wages will save taxpayer dollars, leaving more money for additional state projects.  Opponents say hard-working West Virginians will be the losers because of lower pay.

Earlier in the debate, the House rejected an attempt to have an economic impact study of the repeal of prevailing wage.

Gov. Earl Tomblin has indicated he opposes a repeal, preferring to give last year’s restructuring a chance to work.