This past week a bill was introduced on the Senate Floor that would, if passed, inadvertently cut the number of jobs in Maine by an overwhelming amount. LD 1722, An Act to Clarify the Prevailing Wage Law, proposes that when considering publicly funded construction projects under the jurisdiction of the Davis-Bacon wage determination act, minimum wages and benefits would be set at the higher of the federal and state rates.
I will use Aroostook County as one example of how prevailing wage could affect the State of Maine. Maine’s 2004 prevailing wage for a backhoe operator is $21.02, while the federal rate is $13.04. The state prevailing wage for a bulldozer operator in that same area is $12.43, while the federal rate is $13.59. As proposed in LD 1722, a contractor would be required to pay its backhoe operator according to the state’s prevailing wage while paying the bulldozer operator the federal rate.
There are several reasons why I believe this bill is a bad idea for Maine. The first, and most important, of those reasons is the loss of jobs it would cause. If passed this bill would increase the cost of federally funded projects such as bridge construction, highway paving, etc. The results of this increase would inevitably be less construction, therefore allowing for fewer jobs.
The fiscal impact this piece of proposed legislation would have on Maine is outrageous. Looking at the impact LD 1722 would have on the Maine Department of Transportation as an example. According to MDOT, by significantly cutting down on the number of projects the department completes, LD 1722 would terminate roughly 440 jobs in Maine, jobs that are desperately needed in our area and throughout the entire State of Maine.
This bill would give Maine a worse reputation than it already has for high labor and business costs, something that businesses look very poorly upon. I believe our main goal right now should be to get businesses to come to this state, therefore creating more jobs. If this bill were passed this goal would become unrealistic.
It seems to me our primary concern in this state should be welcoming and urging small businesses to come to Maine, creating more jobs while doing so. The passage of this bill would be doing just the opposite. If you wish to know how your state legislator voted on this issue, please visit www.maine.gov.
Senator Paul Davis (R-Sangerville) is the Republican Leader in the Maine State Senate.