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Feb
2015
13

WV Compromises on Prevailing Wage Repeal While KY Shoots It (and Right-to-Work!) Down

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The prevailing wage is under attack in more than a handful of states nationwide, two of which brought their discussions to a near-term close yesterday.

In Kentucky, prevailing wage repeal was shot down, as was “Right-to-Work” legislation:

The panel overwhelmingly voted down Senate Bill 1, the so-called right-to-work bill sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and SB 9, the prevailing-wage measure sponsored by Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Campbell County.

The two bills received the same treatment in the committee last year.

“One difference between Custer and me: I knew the outcome. He didn’t,” Stivers said after the committee vote, referring to Gen. George Custer’s defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana in 1876.

Each of the two bills got only three Republican votes of support in the 19-member committee: from Reps. Lynn Bechler of Marion, Regina Bunch of Williamsburg and Adam Koenig of Erlanger.

In West Virginia, however, a deal was struck to keep the prevailing wage in tact while amending how it is calculated:

Before the bill was amended Thursday, it would have deleted the wage altogether. Hundreds of concerned union workers filled the Capitol earlier this month, only to see senators advance the repeal to the floor.

After days of behind-the-scenes negotiations, senators and trade workers sketched a compromise to remove the wage’s calculation from the Division of Labor. Workforce West Virginia and economists from West Virginia University and Marshall University would calculate it.

The wage would be reported to lawmakers to approve the methodology.

The bill sets a cap saying projects less than $500,000 wouldn’t be subject to the wage. Of the 32 states with a prevailing wage, only Maryland has that same cap on projects under $500,000.

While avoiding repeal is clearly a win for workers, the $500,000 threshold is quite high, meaning many projects in the state will not come equipped with sufficient wage protections.

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