New Castle News

Closer Look

October 17, 2013

Prevailing wage repeal efforts draw criticism

NEW CASTLE — With state House Republicans making a push to tack prevailing wage repeals onto legislation that would pour billions into transportation funding, laborers like Keith Toner fume.

Toner, of Montgomery in Lycoming County, is a union laborer who belongs to Local 1180 in Harrisburg. His main job responsibilities include assisting bricklayers by doing things such as assembling scaffolding and carrying the bricks — 22 at a time.

“We’re out in 0 degrees and we’re out in 90-degree weather,” Toner said. “That’s why all construction workers have skin like leather.”

Toner said that without prevailing wage, he would not be able to afford his home without traveling all over the country trying to fine suitable work.

The prevailing wage for a laborer in rural Pennsylvania is between $17 and $25 an hour, according to the department of labor’s database.

“I get tired of them taking from the working man,” Toner said. “These administrators get paid by the taxpayers. How do they expect me to afford my taxes if they cut my pay?”

The state House stalled about 30 votes shy of the number needed to pass a transportation funding plan. House Republicans have begun working to get prevailing wage tied to the transportation funding in order to coax conservative members into supporting the gas tax hike that would pay for road and bridge repairs.

A House vote could happen as soon as this week, though most now believe it is more likely that the measure will not reach the House floor until next week.

Toner knows his tax dollars are helping fund the very lobbying efforts that are trying to drive down his pay. Among the most active groups lobbying to get prevailing wage rules changed are taxpayer-funded organizations representing municipalities and school boards.

For instance, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association received $4.25 million in dues payments from local school boards in 2012. The Pennsylvania State Association for Township Supervisors received $1.13 million in dues from local governments in 2011.

But only a fraction of that money goes for lobbying, said David Sanko, executive director of the supervisors group.

Lobbying disclosure records filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State show the school boards association claims it spent $71,675 on lobbying in the most recent 12-month period on file. The township supervisors group spent $56,186 on lobbying in the same period.

“I’m not going to suggest we don’t lobby,” Sanko said. That money includes all of the organization’s lobbying efforts, not just those focusing on prevailing wage, he noted.

“We focus on pro-taxpayer legislation and keeping the cost of government down,” he said. “It would be misleading and inaccurate to suggest that we are focusing on attacking the working man.”

The association represents 1,445 townships, all but 100 of the townships in the state.

Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, defended the spending on lobbying.

“You have to consider how much more is a construction renovation costing because of prevailing wage,” Robinson said. “Walmart doesn’t have to pay those kind of costs.”

But union officials stress the prevailing wage is ultimately intended to help keep spending on construction wages in Pennsylvania, said Frank Sirriani, president of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council.

Without prevailing wage, he noted, there is a risk that out-of-state contractors will win jobs by hiring low-wage, poorly-trained workers.

(Email: jfinnerty@cnhi.com)

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Closer Look
  • Local pastor helping fire victims

    A local pastor is opening up donation avenues to help two families who lost their homes to fire this week.

    April 18, 2014

  • First Energy to replace transmission line

    FirstEnergy Corp. has plans to rebuild a power transmission line between the West Pittsburg plant and a Mahoningtown substation.

    April 18, 2014

  • school.jpg Union to return assistant principal post

    The Union Area School District will have a new administrator when the 2014-15 school year starts. The board voted 8-0 Wednesday night to hire an assistant principal. Debra Allebach was absent.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Calen.tiff Callen gets state honors

    Robert Callen has been selected to receive a state award for his contribution to local government in Pennsylvania. Callen, 58, executive director of the Lawrence County Regional Council of Governments, received the Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bobosky.jpg Gas holdouts unconvinced of safety

    When Suzanne Matteo and her husband, Martin, bought their house on four acres in Pulaski Township they had a plan. They would grow a huge vegetable garden, raise lots of flowers and a few chickens and enjoy the fresh air and quiet.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Miller.jpg Wilmington superintendent discusses common core

    The Wilmington district has no reason to fear new Pennsylvania Core standards, superintendent Dr. Michelle Miller said. She talked about the standards to approximately two dozen residents at the school board’s monthly pre-meeting Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shreck.tiff Schreck reappointed Shenango superintendent

    Dr. Michael Schreck has been reappointed as Shenango’s superintendent for a five-year term. The school board approved his reappointment by an 8-0 vote Monday. Nicholas Manolis was absent.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • vote.jpg Congressional candidate disqualified

    Commonwealth Court has removed a Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District seat from the May 20 primary ballot. Judge Bernard L. McGinley has invalidated the nomination petitions of Mel A. Marin of Sharon.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • money.jpg Up through the ground comes education cash

    Democrats running for governor seem to be competing to convince voters they will dip deepest into the pockets of gas drillers to replace $1 billion that Gov. Tom Corbett has cut from education spending.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • money.jpg Shenango passes tax abatement

    Shenango Township supervisors unanimously approved a tax abatement for Blackwatch Properties LLC when they met Thursday.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content
Section Teases
Must Read
Continuous Super Bowl Coverage