For the first time in anyone’s memory, Ohio House Republicans are responsible for expanding an 89-year-old union-giveaway – the “prevailing wage” statute. Worse, they did this by adding a last minute amendment, hijacking a must-pass emergency COVID-19 relief bill designed to help state and local governments with declining tax revenues. Unless the Ohio Senate intervenes, taxpayers and local governments will pay the price.

So-called “prevailing wage” laws, introduced early last century, are one reason government construction costs significantly more than comparable private sector commercial construction. The laws artificially inflate the wages for government construction projects.  Over the decades the scheme has invited a pay-to-play culture where unions shower campaign contributions on politicians who promise to protect their favored status.

To date, twenty-three states – including four of our five neighbors – have completely repealed their prevailing wage laws and their taxpayers have enjoyed the benefit of less expensive projects.

In 1997 the Republican led Ohio legislature exempted school construction from the prevailing wage law and billions of dollars have been saved since.

Studies routinely prove these prevailing wage requirements increase costs by as much as 20%.

It is unconscionable that House Republicans would use a COVID-19 relief  bill to – without any  public debate – increase costs for Ohioans when we are struggling to re-open our economy.

But the Ohio Senate can put the needs of all Ohioans first by sending SB 310 to a conference committee where this sneaky amendment can be removed.  And they should!

If the Ohio Senate fails to act, Governor Mike DeWine should stand up for the interests of 11.7 million citizens and line-item veto the expansion of prevailing wage.

Neither the Governor nor Republican Legislators campaigned on increasing the wasteful and outdated prevailing wage law.  That’s why they snuck it into the bill and that’s why the Senate should remove it.  And if they won’t, Governor DeWine should.

Beth Lear
Vice President of Government Affairs
Associated Builders and Contractors of Ohio