Editorial: Governor’s veto pen will save taxpayers money

Thank goodness for the veto pen.

Gov. Brian Sandoval used that veto pen this past week to block an attempt by Democratic lawmakers to rollback a modest cost-saving measure passed by the Republican-controlled 2015 Legislature.

Assembly Bill 154 would have raised the cost of construction of university and public school buildings by reimposing the so-called prevailing wage on more projects.

Brian Sandoval (R-J pix)

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 have also required that contractors doing any university or public school work exceeding $100,000 pay prevailing wage, down from the current $250,000. It also requires the full prevailing wage instead of the current 90 percent for school projects. Both the lower threshold and the lower percentage were approved in 2015.

At one point in the 2015 legislative session, a bill was passed to remove the prevailing wage requirement for schools entirely, but in an 11th-hour deal to get Democrats to support Sandoval’s tax hike the $250,000 threshold and the 90 percent of prevailing wage were approved.

Sandoval pointed out in his veto message that the measure would add costs for school construction and reduce the value to the recently voter approved sales tax increase in Washoe County to build new public schools.

“Stakeholders and lawmakers compromised in 2015 to propose moderate, but necessary reforms that I supported,” he wrote in a veto message, according to news accounts. “There is no superseding change today that justifies the rollback of this compromise.”

During testimony about the bill, Warren Hardy of the Associated Builders and Contractors pointed out that a contract for construction of a middle school in Clark County received a low bid of $2.7 million during that brief period a couple of years ago when it looked like the prevailing wage requirement would be dropped for schools, but when the prevailing wage was reinstated the low bid jumped to $3.6 million.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute 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 for public construction projects than necessary — a cost to taxpayers of $1 billion a year.

The better outcome, of course, would have been to repeal all requirements for prevailing wages on public construction projects, but with Democrats in the majority that is not likely to happen. AB154 passed both the Senate and the Assembly on a straight-party-line vote, all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed.

Sandoval did the right thing in vetoing this bill.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.


4 comments on “Editorial: Governor’s veto pen will save taxpayers money

  1. Bill says:

    Don’t know what the ratio is today but when there was an attempt to repeal what is known as the “Little Davis-Bacon Act” in 1985, the estimate was that the “prevailing wage” requirement added at least 25% additional cost of a public work that the taxpayers had to pay. To put it in simple terms you get 25% less of what is being built. So, if you need 100 miles of road you are only going to get 75 miles. To turn it another way, if you were buying donuts you would have to pay the cost of a dozen while only getting 9.

  2. Steve says:

    Shouldn’t that head say “THIS” governors veto pen will save…..?
    Jim Gibbons ran his campaign on blocking things sent to his desk, then our voters gave Gibbons a legislature full of Democrats with a veto proof majority.

    Governors are only as powerful as the voters make the legislature. Thankfully THIS governor has a powerful veto vote and the power to dictate the topics of any special session.

    Unfortunately, Democrats have insisted they have some kind of state mandate to pass their way or the highway. As usual, from either side’s point of view, this is not the case….except for that one time when Jim Gibbons did what he said he would do.

  3. […] 2017’s Assembly Bill 154, which was sponsored by a raft of Democrats. But for Sandoval’s veto, the bill would have rolled […]

  4. […] Brian Sandoval vetoed the 2017 bill saying it would make school construction more costly. Prevailing wage laws require that workers on […]

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