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Should West Virginia Repeal the Prevailing Wage?

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Ashton Marra
/
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The chair of the Senate Committee on Labor pulled a bill from the committee's agenda Tuesday, Senate Bill 245, a bill that aims to repeal the state's prevailing wage requirement. 

Prevailing wage is a defined hourly wage, overtime and benefits used in government contracts established by regulatory agencies. Once those wage standards are set, anyone bidding on a state government contract must pay workers on their project at that level.

Senate President Bill Cole introduced similar legislation in 2014 repealing the wage requirement and said he still believes in repeal because it would be a cost savings to the taxpayers of West Virginia.

"I'm not against paying good wages. I want our people to make more money than ever, but I don't think we're being proper stewards of the taxpayers dollars," Cole said.

"The money comes from the taxpayers so they look for us to properly invest or properly spend those dollars and I think we owe it to the taxpayers to give them the most bang for their buck."

Cole said this bill is exactly the type he envisioned when changing Senate rules to allow for economic impact studies and said "in all likelihood" he would request one.

President of the West Virginia AFL-CIO Kenny Perdue disagreed with Cole's position, saying a repeal of the wage could bring in out-of-state contractors and developers with their own workforce at lower wages forcing West Virginians out of their jobs.

"You've got a workforce here that is very good and you're talking about taking money out of the pockets of a workforce that has depended on that for years," Perdue said.

Senate Labor Chair Daniel Hall said after Tuesday's meeting that negotiations were on going behind the scenes and the bill would likely change form and come before the committee again in the next few weeks.

Ashton Marra covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program. Ashton can also be heard Sunday evenings as she brings you state headlines during NPR’s weekend edition of All Things Considered. She joined the news team in October of 2012.