Prevailing Wage

Prevailing wage is a type of minimum wage that is used on government projects that cost more than $250,000.

To put this in perspective, let's look at the recent Parker Bennett School Construction.

If there was no prevailing wage, it would have cost a little over two million dollars. With prevailing wage, the cost was almost twice as much at $3.9 million.

Those in favor of prevailing wage say the quality of work is better by more highly-skilled workers, but opponents say it simply costs more with little evidence of better quality.

Now the Kentucky Department of Education is supporting a proposal to suspend the prevailing wage requirement for two to five years to study the impact.

Daryl Wheeler is the president of Venture Contracting. He says with prevailing wage: "We pay the same people different rates depending on what kind of job they're working on and they do the same job."

Wheeler says workers who work on state, school district, or local government construction projects costing more than $250,000 are paid more because of the prevailing wage requirement.

He says: "The prevailing wage rates might be considerably higher than what the actual wage rates in a particular area are."

Wheeler says if the prevailing wage is suspended it could save school districts 20 to 25 percent of the total construction costs.

Construction workers say making more money through prevailing wage improves moral.

Bruce Estes says: "When wages are down some people have the attitude we get it done, we get it done, if we don't we don't, just really depends on what kind of attitude you have toward it."

Now the Kentucky Department of Education is supporting suspending the prevailing wage requirement to study its impact on construction costs.

Lisa Gross, with the Kentucky Department of Education, says: "They believe it is costing school districts more than it should."

The Kentucky Department of Education says there was a survey of local superintendents to see how they thought prevailing wage affected construction.

Gross says: "Most of them about 95 percent said prevailing wage increased cost of construction and only four percent of those folks thought it improved quality."

The Kentucky Department of Education says they don't want to take money away from workers, they want to see if there's a more efficient way workers can be paid and construction costs can be kept down.

The issue of repealing the prevailing wage requirement for educational facilities will be before the 2006 session of the General Assembly.

Representative Jim DeCesare, of the 21st district, says he filed the legislation Thursday.