Prevailing wage repeal may have to be revisited, says original bill sponsor

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A “true wage” is what he’s after, but state Senator Craig Blair (R-Berkeley, 15) said he doubts that’s what’s going to come out of the ongoing prevailing wage calculations from WorkForce West Virginia authorized in a new state law.

Sen. Craig Blair (R-Berkeley, 15)

Data from the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, must be factored in, Blair argued.

“We did this in good faith. We compromised and the compromise was a true number, using the BLS as part of the factoring in. This is not being done and, in fact, it’s an insult to the Legislature,” he said of the wage determination methods on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Beginning Wednesday, there will be no prevailing wage in West Virginia — a minimum hourly wage, including benefits and overtime, set for large, state-funded construction projects above a $500,000 threshold.

Officials with WorkForce West Virginia are continuing to gather data for their formulations.

Surveys were sent out to more than 5,000 businesses earlier this month, but lawmakers declined to delay the take-effect date for the new prevailing wage from July 1 to September to allow researchers additional time to comply.

“It’s unfortunate that the Legislature’s actions will create uncertainty for businesses and local governments in West Virginia and we urge legislators to reconsider that action,” a statement from the Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s Administration said of the prevailing wage last week.

In the view of the Tomblin Administration, the WorkForce West Virginia calculation method is within the parameters of S.B. 361.

Blair, though, contended the law is not being followed as lawmakers intended since the point was to get away from an emphasis on surveys. He was the sponsor of the original bill proposed that would have repealed the prevailing wage altogether.

“We could have repealed it, but we were trying to do the right thing and, when the Governor’s Office comes back and tries to put it on us, wrong! I totally disagree with that,” said Blair, while calling for the repeal issue to be revisited.

“I want the true number being paid to the West Virginia worker out there, all workers for that matter. And, if it’s going to perverted as it has been this time again, then what option are we left with?”

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