Make sure prevailing wage is reasonable

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch 

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — When the state of West Virginia builds schools and other public projects, the public expects good quality construction, a safe workplace and a fair wage to workers.

But no one likes to see their hard-earned tax dollars wasted, so the public also expects reasonable costs.

That is the balance that lawmakers need to strike as they get into the details of West Virginia’s prevailing wage law, which currently sets the minimum per-hour pay and benefits for workers on public projects.

A bill to repeal the whole process was introduced earlier this year, with the view that it is best to let the free market determine the wage – as it does for the most part in the private sector. That is an appealing argument, and while the federal government has a prevailing wage system for federally funded projects, 18 states do not use one for state projects.

But West Virginia’s system has been in place since 1931, and the consequences of a complete repeal have been the subject of a hot debate. Proponents hope the change would save taxpayers money, but opponents raise real concerns about local contractors and workers losing projects to out-of-state bidders…

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