The Kentucky Senate signed off Thursday on a bill to exempt school and university construction from Kentucky’s prevailing wage law but House Speaker Greg Stumbo said it does not have a chance of winning passage in the Democratic-led House.
The prevailing wage law generally sets higher wage rates for public works projects. Supporters of it, including unions, claim it is needed to provide quality work in school construction. Its opponents contend that it needlessly drives up construction costs for schools.
The Senate voted 26-11 to send Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, to the House.
Senate Education Chairman Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, said schools have experienced funding losses since 2008 and need financial relief.
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Wilson said quality of work is not a factor in the bill. “Some people who work on prevailing wage jobs work on non-prevailing wage jobs,” he said.
But Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, said the bill would affect 75,000 Kentucky construction workers. He called it “an anti-middle class bill.”
He predicted that it is “only the beginning of the assault on prevailing wage.”
On Wednesday, Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Latonia, filed SB 94 to allow local governments and special purpose governmental entities to opt out of prevailing wage requirements for public works.
Stumbo said prevailing wage is needed to make sure public construction is done with qualified, trained workers.
“Do you want people not specifically trained to build them?” he asked reporters.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said no one is questioning the workmanship of school construction. “They are questioning the cost,” he said.