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Armstead says prevailing wage repeal “very likely” in next year’s session

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead said Thursday it’s “very likely” prevailing wage will be repealed during next year’s legislative session.

Armstead (R-Kanawha), speaking on MetroNews “Talkline”, said the new wage that came out from WorkForce West Virginia Wednesday was flawed.

“They’ve been looking, in my opinion, to preserve the status quo and that’s not what we were trying to do,” Armstead said.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate passed a bill earlier this year spelling out a new way to determine the prevailing wage which is used on large state-funded construction projects. Critics of the old wage said it was inflated and the state could use the savings to do more construction projects. Armstead and others have criticized WorkForce West Virginia for determining the new wage by surveying contractors who used the old wage.

“We were trying to work in a cooperative way and it’s unfortunate that some of the other ones involved didn’t want to extend that cooperation,” Armstead said.

He guaranteed repealing of the new prevailing wage would be a topic of discussion in next year’s session.

“I think that it’s very likely (a repeal) will be the case,” Armstead said.

What opponents of the prevailing wage really want is to lower what workers are paid, House Minority Leader Tim Miley (D-Harrison) said Thursday. He said the new wage was based on a 74 percent response rate from contractors who were surveyed and that appears to be a fair result.

“I think it’s a reflection of accurate data of the wages that are prevailing out there in the various regions of our state—so I’m not sure where the source of criticism is over these numbers,” Miley said.

The controversy is about one thing, Miley said.

“When it comes down to it they simply want to lower workers’ wages in West Virginia and at some point enough is enough,” he said.

Speaker Armstead said the free market would actually help the most skilled workers.

“Those who are doing a good job ought to appreciate the fact that this process will give them the ability to make more,” Armstead said.

Not so, said Miley.

“As the labor rates go down you’re going to get what you paid for and that’s lower skilled workers,” he said.

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