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IN House Votes to End Base Project Wage

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

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Indiana's Republican-led House has approved the repeal of an 80-year-old law that sets base wages for all major public construction projects in the state.

Thirteen Republicans broke party ranks to oppose H.B. 1019 with the chamber's 28 Democrats in Monday's (Feb. 23) 55-41 vote. The controversial measure is now before the state's 50-member Senate, where Republicans hold 80 percent of the seats.

VictoryRenovation VictoriaEmergyVictoryStatue
ARSEE Engineers Inc.

The bill would repeal base wages on all state and local public-works projects that cost more than $350,000. The 2011 state-run renovation of the Victory sculpture atop the Indianapolis Soldiers and Sailors Monument cost $1.5 million.

The Senate Labor Committee Chairman has expressed opposition to the measure, but Gov. Mike Pence says he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Eliminating Wage Boards

The bill would eliminate the five-member boards that set construction wages for each state or local project costing more than $350,000. The boards include members appointed by labor unions and by non-union contractors.

Proponents say the wage repeal would save taxpayers millions of dollars a year in public construction costs. Critics say it would hurt workers and invite out-of-state companies to undercut Indiana contractors that pay good wages.

"Numerous" construction company officials testified against the proposal last week during more than four hours of debate; they said base wage helped the state maintain a stable, well-trained work force, the Associated Press reported.

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The new bill follows a recent Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana's 2012 Right to Work Law, which drew thousands of protesters to the Statehouse when the measure was debated.

The wage proposal comes just a few months after Indiana's Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the state's "right to work" law, which drew thousands of protesters to the Statehouse when the measure passed in 2012.

'Taxpayer Protection'

The wage repeal would provide “taxpayer protection,” said State Rep. Jerry Torr (R-Carmel), who authored the bill. "This isn't going to cut anybody out."

State Rep. Martin Carbaugh (R-Fort Wayne) and other legislators contended that the free market should determine the cost of public-works projects. Supporters of the measure said the bill would cut public-works project costs by 10 to 20 percent.

“We have to remember that all this wage that we’re paying is taxpayer money,” Carbaugh said. “We have to be responsible with people’s money.”

Torr said the measure would "let the free market work on public works projects bid so taxpayers get the best deal for their money.”

JerryTorr
Fox 59 screen grab

"This isn't going to cut anybody out," said State Rep. Jerry Torr, the bill's author. He said the measure would ensure that "taxpayers get the best deal for their money."

State Rep. Judd McMillin (R-Brookville) said the bill reflected reality.

“The reality is I came up here to enact good policy and protect taxpayers," McMillin said. "This is the most taxpayer protection bill I have been part of since I’ve been up here.”

'Leave These Folks Alone'

Opponents said the bill would backfire on workers, employers and the state's economy.

“You had contractors, you had business people, you had the people who drive the economic engines in Indiana fill this chamber [for the hearing on the bill],” said State Rep. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend).

“You had them come one by one and they said, ‘Do not do this. This is going to hurt Indiana. This is going to hurt wages.'”

Added State Rep. Chuck Moseley (D-Portage): “If you really believe lowering wages in your community is what people sent you here to do, then you vote for this bill."

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath said the bill had been driven by Republicans in Congress.

ChuckMoseley
Fox 59 screen grab

“If you really believe lowering wages in your community is what people sent you here to do, then you vote for this bill,” said State Rep. Chuck Moseley (D-Portage). Thirteen Republicans also voted no.

“Let’s solve real problems for real people,” said Pelath. “Leave these folks alone. Let them do the good work they have been doing for generations.”

He added, as a reminder, "you get what you pay for."

Rep. Mike Karickhoff of Kokoma, a Republican who voted against the bill, said he wanted local authorities to have the say on local wages.

"For me," he said, "this is an issue of local control."

   

Tagged categories: Economy; Government; Government contracts; Laws and litigation; Workers

Comment from Mike McCloud, (2/25/2015, 8:10 AM)

If you cut the prevailing wage (that's approximately $50-$75 per hour by Davis Bacon standards in New England/NY) in half, you could employ twice as many people that would still be making good money.


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