Prevailing Wage Reform, In the Wrong Direction

With spending inefficiencies, cost overruns, and other financial headaches on public construction projects, it’s clear that Maryland needs to rein in onerous laws that increase the costs of public construction.

The existing prevailing wage requirements on public construction projects are one such financial burden that Maryland could do without as it tries to rebuild itself as a center for commerce. Unfortunately, H.B. 721 isn’t the prevailing wage reform Maryland needs.

Under this reform in sheep’s clothing, Maryland would pay even more for public construction projects, as the bill lowers the threshold at which prevailing wage rates must be instituted on public works projects from $500,000 to $25,000. Basically, any state project would become subject to prevailing wage. 

The bill also doesn’t make sense when it comes to using the current collective bargaining wage rate for each classification. The current prevailing wage rate is determined by surveying contractors. H.B. 721 would eliminate that process and just use the union rates.  It makes no logical sense that the wages of just 15 percent of the construction workforce in Maryland—9 out of 10 construction workers choose NOT to unionize—would be used to determine the “prevailing wage” across the state.

Maryland desperately needs to change when and how prevailing wage is determined and applied, indeed, if it’s even needed at all. Without a good, hard look at what its cost us in the past, we will continue to pay for it in the future. Maryland can’t afford to stay on this course that has landed us where we are now. Say yes to change the direction of our future. Say no to the prevailing wage reform that isn’t.