House Committee to Begin Series of Hearings Aimed at Stretching Local Tax Dollars

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House Labor and Industry Committee to review proposed modernization of state’s Prevailing Wage Law

HARRISBURG – Local government officials and union representatives will present their views on Pennsylvania’s half-century-old Prevailing Wage Law and some proposed changes at a hearing in State College this week.  The state House Labor and Industry Committee will hold the hearing this Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Senate Room of the PennStater Conference Center at 215 Innovation Blvd.

Pennsylvania’s Prevailing Wage Law requires municipalities and school districts to pay the “prevailing minimum wage” to those individuals working on public construction projects. The Prevailing Wage Act does not specify how the “prevailing minimum wage” in a locality is to be determined, and the act leaves much discretion to the secretary of labor and industry as to how to set the wage. Currently, the secretary of labor and industry is opting to use the area union wage rates as the prevailing wage rate that is to be paid on public projects. It is argued by Prevailing Wage Act reform proponents  that  union wage rates are more comparable to wages rates paid in larger cities, and often do not reflect the actual  prevailing wages paid in rural areas. Reform advocates believe that basing prevailing wage rates in rural counties on union wage rates inflates the costs of public projects anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent.

“Balancing property taxes and needed projects is very tough.  We look forward to hearing from the local officials who are struggling to pay more for public projects with limited tax dollars,” said committee Chairman Mario Scavello (R-Monroe).

Among those expected to testify are State College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine; Ferguson Township Manager Mark Kunkle; Patton Township Manager Doug Erickson; Patton Township Supervisor Joshua Troxell; Pete Smeltz, chairman, Clinton County Board of Commissioners; Vana Dainty, vice president, Bellefonte Borough Council; Building and Trades Council President Frank Sirianni; and Pennsylvania Legislative Director Abe Amoros of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

The topics of the hearing will include two bills to update the Prevailing Wage Law.  House Bill 796 would increase the $25,000 threshold beyond which projects would have to pay higher wages to $100,000.  House Bill 665 would make it clear that the law would not apply to road repair projects.  This was the case prior to the Rendell administration.

This is the first in a series of hearings by the committee on the topic of Prevailing Wage Law reforms.  Additional hearings are slated for Stroud Township, Monroe County on Aug. 29; Williamsport, Lycoming County on Sept. 10; and Johnstown, Cambria County on Sept. 16.

This hearing may be seen LIVE online at www.pahousegop.com.

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