The state’s 1455 second-class townships now include prevailing wage reform as part of their campaign to stop the state and federal governments from enacting local government mandates without providing the funding.
“We’ve been battling unfunded mandates for years,” said David Sanko, Executive Director of the Penn- sylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS). “A few months ago it was just logical to include the prevailing wage because it’s one of the biggest unfunded mandates, costing taxpayers mil- lions they should not have to pay.”
Unfunded mandates were the theme at PSATS annual convention in Hershey the week of May 14. Township officials wore green campaign-style stickers featuring a rifle’s crosshairs over the words “Unfunded Mandates”.
Sanko’s group estimates that prevailing wage law increases the cost of public projects financed by tax- payer dollars from 20 percent to 30 percent.
School districts and local governments are mandated by state law to pay prevailing wages on any public works construction contract over $25,000. These wages generally approximate union-scale wages for metropolitan areas and often far exceed comparable wages paid in the locality for the same type of work in the private sector.
Even modest modernizations of the law would save the taxpayers significant amounts. Legislation await- ing action on the House floor, HB 1329, would increase the prevailing wage threshold from $25,000 (set in the early 1960s) to $185,000 (the same amount in today’s dollars) and adjust this amount annually to reflect the Consumer Price Index.
“The taxpayers deserve to get maximum value out of the dollars government takes from us,” said PMA Executive Director David N. Taylor. “It shouldn’t be difficult to update the threshold on ‘prevailing wage’ to reflect how life has changed since John F. Kennedy was President. Any elected official who can’t agree to such a minimal, common sense reform has no respect for the taxpayers and is not serious about making government live within its means. When individuals, families, and businesses continue to do more with less, the least state government can do is correct a policy price tag that predates Beatle- mania.”