Forum: Prevailing wage protects the construction industry and Connecticut’s economy

By Roland Lemar
POSTED: 02/26/17, 8:57 PM EST

There have been numerous legislative proposals introduced this year to alter the thresholds that trigger when the Connecticut’s prevailing wage law is applied to public works construction projects. Connecticut’s current threshold is $400,000 for new construction and $100,000 for renovation. That means that a public project must cost that amount for the prevailing wage law to apply.

If a project falls below that threshold, then workers only have to be paid the minimum wage rather than the family-sustaining prevailing wage. Connecticut currently has the second-highest thresholds in the country, and the highest by far in New England.

Those that have proposed an increase to the prevailing wage thresholds have indicated that their proposals will alleviate budgetary constraints on our municipalities. I do not believe that is the case. Further weakening of our state’s prevailing wage law will do just the opposite, and will further eliminate the kind of fair-paying, middle-class jobs that we should try to keep and grow in our state.

Two economics professors at the University of Utah, Peter Phillips and Cihan Bilingsoy, conducted a study in 2010, titled “Impact of Prevailing Wages on the Economy and Communities of Connecticut,” which found that repeal of the prevailing wage law would result in the loss of $21.6 million in income tax revenue. Other studies have shown that every dollar spent on a prevailing wage project generates a $1.50 in economic activity – that’s money spent at local businesses such as restaurants and auto body shops. Prevailing wages keep workers off public assistance and allow them to contribute to our local economies – which is a good investment for our state.

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