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WV has new prevailing wage; critics remain

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia once again has a prevailing wage but there remain critics of how the numbers were calculated.

WorkForce West Virginia filed the information with the Secretary of State’s Office Wednesday. The prevailing wage is the wage required for different jobs on construction projects that are totally funded by the state. The legislature forced a recalculation of the wage when it passed a bill earlier this year that Gov. Earl Tomblin signed. Critics claimed the old wage was inflated and the state could use money saved on additional construction projects.

MORE Read new prevailing wage information here

WorkForce West Virginia based the new numbers, released Wednesday, on more than 500 surveys returned by contractors as well as federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The results are a mixed bag when compared with the old prevailing wage, WorkForce Director of Research Jeff Green said Wednesday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

“58.4 percent of them (wages) were lower than previous rates, 41 percent were slightly higher,” Green said.

There are new numbers for 28 job categories. The decreases in the wage rates are deeper than the increases, Green said.

State Senate Majority Leader Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) maintains the numbers are flawed because the contractors who were surveyed have been paying the inflated old wage.

“They based their decision on flawed information to begin with,” Carmichael said.

Green admitted the new wage is likely impacted by the old wage but it’s difficult to determine how much.

“Some of the data would, some of the data will not, because we also got responses from contractors who were doing commercial work at the time. So they weren’t paying, they weren’t required to pay, the prevailing wage,” he said.

Leading lawmakers and WorkForce have been at odds since information on how the new wage would be calculated was released earlier this year. The state has gone without a prevailing wage since June 30 and things have been just fine, Carmichael said.

“There has been no crisis here in West Virginia. We eliminated the prevailing wage until WorkForce West Virginia concocted one,” Carmichael said on “Talkline” Wednesday.

But Affiliated Construction and Trades Foundation President Steve White says three months without a prevailing wage has not produced the great savings in state funds Republicans predicted. White believes WorkForce did a good job getting enough information to establish a new wage.

“They got a ton of data in here. I don’t know how you could get any better data than what they’ve done,” he said.

Carmichael said he would like to introduce a bill next January that totally eliminates the prevailing wage. More than two dozen other states don’t have one, he said.

“I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated with this and we can do better in West Virginia,” he said. “Life went on…and we can do fine without it, instead of spending five or six months to send out these surveys and ask people what they make. It’s just ridiculous.”

White cautioned against a knee-jerk reaction to the new numbers.

“I certainly hope that we can all sit around and have a conversation about trying to improve this. But it’s up to the legislature on what reaction they want to take, but we would stay–give it some time,” White said.

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