MR. REAP’S RECENT commentary on SB 271 (An Act to Require Prevailing Wages on State-Funded Public Works Projects) misses the mark and distorts the reality. Trying to turn the debate to a union issue is an effort to contort the facts, and the benefits, of the proposed legislation.
Despite wide-spread public misconception, a misconception also apparently shared by the CEO of the Associated Builders of New Hampshire (he should know better), prevailing wage is not “union” wage. Prevailing wage, both federally and in the states with similar laws, is based upon extensive surveys conducted in which contractors disclose wages and benefits paid to its workforce. There is no distinction between union and non-union workers. These surveys will then set direction for wage rates to be paid to construction workers on government-funded projects.
The “facts” tossed around by Mr. Reap have no support when put to the test. Simply put, a prevailing wage law will require contractors to compete for public projects in New Hampshire based on a set of criteria that ensures its workforce is the best-trained, best-equipped and best managed. Projects will be awarded to high-performing contractors; not to those that can assemble the cheapest, least-trained workforce. It is no coincidence that jurisdictions with prevailing wage law protections have the lowest incidence of workplace injury and death. Supporters of SB 271 understand all the ancillary benefits of a well-codified prevailing wage law.
Mr. Reap’s loudest claim is that prevailing wage will drive up the costs of construction and that the sky will fall with “higher property taxes…service cuts [and] busted budgets.” These are the bellwether sounds of those who try to influence public policy by threatening taxpayers with threats of increased government intrusion into our pockets. Again, the facts of prevailing wage laws in other jurisdictions belie these assertions.
In a recent, first-of-its-kind nationwide study on the impact of state prevailing wage laws, the reality of legislation such as SB 271 was proven to provide positive results across economic, social and fiscal areas. In its nationwide survey, “The Economic, Fiscal and Social Impacts of State Prevailing Wage Laws: Choosing Between the High Road and the Low Road in the Construction Industry” (Manzo, et al, 2016), it was shown that states with prevailing wage laws have higher workmanship, productivity and job-safety than states with no prevailing wage protections. Additionally, states without prevailing wage laws have a higher percentages of public health insurance and other forms of public assistance. New Hampshire’s rolls of those on public assistance is a prime exhibit in support of the argument that good paying jobs are the best social program any state can provide its citizens.
Finally, the facts simply don’t support the claim that prevailing wage laws guarantee higher construction labor costs on public projects. Mr. Reap referred to a 2017 report funded and prepared by the Empire Center for Public Policy. It is important to understand that this report was not peer-reviewed; essentially meaning that its conclusions weren’t checked for accuracy. The Manzo study included an analysis of peer-reviewed studies across the United States. Its conclusion was clear; the overwhelming majority of public-projects do not have higher construction costs in states that have prevailing wage laws in place.
There is a reason why state prevailing wage laws have long had the support of both sides of the political aisle, from a diverse group of legislators, including Paul Ryan, the former Republican Speaker of the United States House of Representatives; prevailing wage laws, such as SB 271, are best for the taxpayers of New Hampshire, its workers, businesses and for the state’s economy.