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Committee Takes Local Tax-Saving Search to Johnstown
September 16, 2013
HARRISBURG – The House Labor and Industry Committee continues its study of Pennsylvania’s outdated prevailing wage law and proposed changes at a hearing in Johnstown next week. The committee will hold a hearing Monday, Sept. 16, from 1-4 p.m. in Johnstown City Hall at 410 Main St.
“This is another chance for us to hear from municipal, business and labor officials about the impacts of the Prevailing Wage Act,” said committee Chairman Mario Scavello (R-Monroe).   “At two previous hearings, the committee has heard of higher taxes and fewer road and bridge projects because of the costs of this mandate.”

The topics of the hearing will include various approaches to reforming the prevailing wage law, which hasn’t been updated since 1963.

Among those expected to testify in Johnstown are Ebensburg Borough Manager Daniel Penatzer, Cambria County Commissioner Doug Lengenfelder, Johnstown City Manager Kristen Denne, EADS Group Consulting Engineer Steve Sewalk, Adams Township Supervisor Bill Smith, IUOE 66 Business Manager James Kunz, Laborers International Union Legislative Director Abe Amoros, Building and Construction Trades Council President Frank Sirianni, and Steamfitters Local 449 Business Manager Regis Ryan.

Pennsylvania’s prevailing wage law requires municipalities and school districts to pay the “prevailing minimum wage” to those working on public construction projects. The law does not specify how that wage is to be determined, but leaves much discretion to the secretary of the Department of Labor and Industry as to how to set the wage. Currently, the secretary is opting to use the area union wage rates as the prevailing wage rate that is to be paid on public projects. It is argued by Prevailing Wage Act reform proponents that union wage rates are more comparable to wages rates paid in larger cities, and often do not reflect the actual prevailing wages paid in rural areas. Reform advocates believe that basing prevailing wage rates in rural counties on union wage rates inflates the costs of public projects anywhere from 5 percent to 20 percent.  

This is the third in a series of hearings by the committee on the topic of prevailing wage law reforms. The first two sessions were held last month in State College and Stroudsburg. An additional hearing is scheduled for Williamsport on Sept. 26.   That hearing was originally scheduled for Sept. 10, but was postponed due to the funeral of state Rep. Dick Hess.

The Johnstown hearing may be viewed LIVE online at www.pahousegop.com.

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