COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio Sen. Matt Huffman said he wants to relax the state's prevailing wage law in part because local governments are already finding "innovative ways" to get around paying union-scale wages to construction workers.
State law requires counties, cities, villages and townships to pay minimum wages and benefits, called prevailing wages, to construction workers on public projects exceeding a certain cost. Huffman, a Lima Republican, introduced a bill allowing counties, cities, villages, townships and colleges and universities to opt out of paying prevailing wages.
At a Tuesday news conference, Huffman said a mayor in his district had a buddy build a building and the village bought it for a lesser price just to avoid paying prevailing wage. Responding to reporters' questions, Huffman said he didn't ask where the mayor was from and he wasn't sure whether the deal was illegal.
"It's an example of some of the things local governments are trying to do," Huffman said. "I think we need to have transparency and make sure these local governments are actually paying what the market rate is."
Supporters of Senate Bill 72, including county and village officials, say they could save millions of dollars on large projects by paying market rates instead of prevailing wages. Officials said the money saved could be used for additional infrastructure improvements.
The Affiliated Construction Trades of Ohio, which represents Ohio's 125,000 unionized construction workers, opposes the bill. ACT Executive Director Matt Szollosi said last week that the bill would drive more work to out of state contractors who pay their employees less.
Szollosi said studies show prevailing wages do not increase project cost and encourage employers to hire well-trained employees.
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