The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 10, 2014

GOP leaders disavow prevailing wage repeal

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING – Can the state’s construction industry expect a repeal of the Michigan Prevailing Wage Act this year?

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) told MIRS News Service on Sept. 26 that he has “no interest” in moving on prevailing wage repeal this year. MIRS said it broached the subject with Richardville after House Minority Leader Tim- Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) said he was concerned that Republican lawmakers would use the December lame duck session to adopt “undesirable” legislation.

Richardville said, “I don’t have an appetite for either one of those . . . I have no interest is messing with either one of those,” referring to prevailing wage repeal and a proposal to change how Michigan divides up its electoral votes. House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) told MIRS on the same date that he too is not interested in pursuing prevailing wage repeal.

Of course, Gov. Rick Snyder also said that right-to-work wasn’t on his agenda, until he put it on his agenda.

If prevailing wage repeal doesn’t happen, it would be great news for the state’s construction workers, both union and nonunion. Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Act of 1965 wage is singularly responsible for upholding the wage scales of tens of thousand of construction workers toiling on taxpayer funded building projects. Repeal would open the door for contractors to hire cheap, out-of-area, often illegal workers to win bids on local projects and undermine local wage scales.

Prevailing wage repeal has been on the House GOP’s priority agenda, and two bills that would repeal the state law have been in the legislative hopper the last two years, without moving for a vote.

House Speaker Jase BOLGER (R-Marshall) said Thursday he’s willing to “have a conversation” on changing how Michigan divvies up its Electoral College votes (See “Lame Duck Forecasts,” 9/18/14), but his leadership counterpart in the Senate isn’t as willing.

Senate Majority Leader Randy RICHARDVILLE (R-Monroe) told MIRS that he has “no interest” in moving either Electoral College reform or a prevailing wage repeal.

Asked if that meant that was not going to happen in his mind, he responded, “No, neither one of them.”

Bolger said Thursday, too, he’s not interested in pursuing a prevailing wage repeal either.

MIRS broached the subjects with Richardville after House Minority Leader TimGREIMEL (D-Auburn Hills) said on Off The Record this week that he was concerned the Republicans would jam up lame duck with undesirable legislation.

With Senate Minority Leader Gretchen WHITMER (D-East Lansing) at his side, Richardville said, “I don’t have an appetite for either one of those . . . I have no interest is messing with either one of those.”

The Monroe lawmaker said he remembers when then-Gov. John ENGLER put the hot-button prevailing wage issue on his agenda. Richardville, who served in the House at the time, said he and current Sen. Mike KOWALL (R-White Lake) opposed the effort along with a few other Republicans who are no longer around.

“We stood-up” and voted no, he said, adding that the state’s prevailing wage is good for both business and labor.

On altering the state’s winner-take-all Electoral College distribution system, Richardville said those Republicans calling for this change apparently do not have “much faith” in future GOP presidential candidates. He said he does.

After hearing all this, a cautious Whitmer was asked if she would write a check to Richardville?

“No. Never,” she smiled. That said, she added, “There is a movement with the Republican Party to accomplish some of these things.”

In fact, the prevailing wage repeal was part of last year’s House GOP priority agenda. On the Electoral College repeal, Whitmer accused the other side of trying to “rig elections for president . . . it’s something we have to be worrisome about.”

The East Lansing Democrat nudged her GOP colleague with this: “I didn’t hear him say exactly those words” that prevailing wage would not come-up, and until she does she adds, “I think it’s important to be vigilant.”

Asked if he would say that, Ricahrdville also smiled and said: “No. That would be anti-climatic. She should wait a little while to hear exactly those words.”