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Hotly debated wage bill heads to Senate floor

Charleston Daily Mail photo by Bob Wojcieszak Members of several different labor union organizations lined the hallways during a state Senate committee meeting where lawmakers were hearing arguments for and against repealing the state’s prevailing wage law. The bill, though unfinished, will go to the Senate floor.
Charleston Daily Mail photo by Bob Wojcieszak
Members of several different labor union organizations lined the hallways during a state Senate committee meeting where lawmakers were hearing arguments for and against repealing the state’s prevailing wage law. The bill, though unfinished, will go to the Senate floor.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Hundreds of contractors and laborers lined the halls of the west wing of the state Capitol as lawmakers discussed and advanced a bill which would repeal the state’s prevailing wage rates for the first time during two separate Senate committee meetings on Tuesday.

With a committee room pushed beyond capacity — filled with orange-shirted contractors, attorneys, journalists and businessmen and women — Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, dedicated the majority of the first of two Senate Government Organization meetings to testimony from eight different speakers discussing both sides of the controversial bill.

Blair, who introduced the repeal bill in the Senate last Thursday, asked speakers to provide testimony that will help lawmakers decide on whether or not to advance or amend the bill.

Greg Hadjis, president of J.F. Allen Company, a highway construction company based in Buckhannon, was among four men who testified in support of repealing prevailing wage rates during an afternoon meeting.

Hadjis cited recent statistics that revealed a decline in construction jobs in West Virginia, which differs from trends seen on the national level.

“I don’t believe the mandated prevailing wage is cutting the wage,” he said.

Hadjis said the free market would determine what should be paid for construction jobs if the law is enacted.

“What we’re talking about here is trying to get more construction, more jobs and more tax efficient spending of the state taxpayer’s money,” he said.

Art King, an owner of Kanawha Stone Company, agreed with Hadjis, said repealing the prevailing wage would create more projects and, in turn, more jobs.

Chandler Swope, co-founder of Swope Construction, challenged the assertion that non-union companies don’t measure up to union companies in terms of safety.

“There is no correlation between wage rates and safety,” he said.

Glenn Jeffries, president of Eleanor-based Cornerstone Interiors Inc., was among those who spoke against proposed legislation…

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