Another bill in Carson City would cost Nevada taxpayers dearly

A fool and his money are soon parted.

In Nevada those fools are the taxpayers who keep electing Democrat majorities to send to Carson City to pick their pockets.

Assembly Bill 154, sponsored by a raft of Democrats, would roll back the minor headway made just two years ago to cut the cost of public works. It would raise the cost of construction on university and public school campuses be reimposing the so-called prevailing wage on more projects.

Prevailing wage laws require that workers on public construction jobs be paid no less than the “prevailing” wage in the area where the work is being done. The wage rate is set by the state labor commissioner based on a survey of contractors. The survey is so time consuming that in reality only union shops bother to comply, meaning the prevailing wage is the highest union wage.

AB154 would require that contractors doing any university or public school work exceeding $100,000 pay prevailing wage, down from the current $250,00. It also requires the full prevailing wage instead of the current 90 percent.

In 2000, A.D. Hopkins wrote a series of articles for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, long since disappeared from the paper’s website, outlining the profligacy of the prevailing wage law. The lede on one of the earlier stories in the series read: “Nevada’s prevailing wage law costs taxpayers about $2.3 million extra on every new public high school being built in Clark County, according to a database analysis by the Review-Journal.”

In 2012, Geoffrey Lawrence penned an outstanding column for the Nevada Policy Research Institute website on Nevada’s expensive prevailing wage law.

He noted how a plumber in Mesquite might expect to be paid less than $20 an hour for most jobs, but, if it is a public works project by a state or local government entity, that same plumber would be paid, by law, more than $70 an hour.

Lawrence’s piece pointed out that an NPRI analysis estimated that prevailing wage requirements cost Nevada taxpayers nearly $1 billion extra over 2009 and 2010. The state’s biennial general fund budget is less than $7 billion. “That’s why prevailing wage reform needs to be at the top of the agenda for the Nevada Legislature in 2013,” Lawrence wrote.

NPRI in its “Solutions 2015” handbook estimated the law required the state, cities, counties, school districts and other government entities to pay 45 percent higher wages than necessary — still at a cost to taxpayers of $1 billion a year.

For a little historical perspective, the prevailing wage law is a vestige of the Jim Crow era and is modeled on the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 that was expressly intended to keep cheaper Southern black laborers from getting jobs on public works projects.

The discriminatory nature of prevailing wages persists to this day.

Warren Hardy of Associated Builders and Contractors was quoted by the Las Vegas newspaper as testifying, “The overwhelming majority of small, minority or women-owned businesses are nonunion,” and, because of prevailing wages, many are unable to compete for public projects.

 

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