Prevailing wage repeal clears Senate, heads to Governor
By WV MetroNews
The state Senate passed along party lines Thursday a bill eliminating prevailing wage in West Virginia. The House approved HB 4005 earlier, so the legislation now goes to the Governor where a veto is expected.
The Senate’s 18-16 vote came after two hours of debate with those for and against rising to speak passionately about the issue as a gallery of mostly union workers looked on.
The legislation erases the long-held practice in West Virginia where the government surveys contractors to determine the minimum level of pay for a variety of classifications of jobs on state-funded projects, such as school construction.
Supporters of prevailing wage argue that provides a living wage for workers, while keeping out-of-state contractors from undercutting West Virginia construction companies and workers.
Senator Bill Laird (D-Fayette) contended that the bill will “actually weaken our economy through lost wages and tax revenue, weaken our workforce training programs intended to help diversify our economy and reduce the quality of the work performed.”
However Senator Charlie Trump (R-Morgan) countered that prevailing wage artificially inflates the cost of public projects, thus costing taxpayers more money. “Now can we really countenance the argument that paying above market wages for those kinds of projects does not inflate the cost?”
Republicans and Democrats agreed on legislation last year designed to fix what many believed was a flawed system, but Republican leaders later decided that the new standard remained flawed so they pushed this session for a full repeal.
Governor Tomblin has indicated he will veto the prevailing wage repeal, sending it back to the Legislature where Senate and House Republican leaders will push for an override.