Prevailing wage shouldn’t hold up transportation bill

A rare meeting of state House and Senate leaders Tuesday was a signal that the Legislature is getting close to approving a transportation bill to improve Pennsylvania’s hurting road and bridge system.

But it’s also clear that everyone is going to have to give a little to turn the $2.3 billion House proposal into legislation.

On the spending side, it seems to be okay with just about everyone to raise the wholesale gas tax while removing a 12-cents-per-gallon tax paid at the pump.

Unfortunately, another part of the transportation plan includes the holy grail of trade unions, the prevailing wage law.

That law requires contractors on state-funded construction projects costing more than $25,000 to pay specific wages to various tradesmen. The wages are set by the Department of Labor and Industry and generally are tied to labor contracts in particular areas.

Unions are split on whether to give up the advantages of the prevailing wage law.

We like the attitude of Patrick Gillespie, business manager for the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, who voted in early October to support the change.

He said the change, though difficult, would be a path to putting more union members to work.

And while unions fear the change will lead to more non-union work on smaller projects, the state last year funded just 17 projects costing $100,000 or less.

Hopefully, the value and need for this transportation plan will provide the Legislature with the spine to take long-overdue action doing away with the prevailing wage law.

– Williamsport Sun-Gazette