Prevailing Wage Task Force Holds Final Meeting, Lacks Consensus

The Task Force to Study the Applicability of the Maryland Prevailing Wage Law held its last meeting on Monday, February 24 to discuss the prevailing wage legislation that has been introduced so far this session and the structure of the final report. Due to a lack of consensus within the group, the Task Force did not take a position on the three bills discussed.  Instead the final report will summarize discussions of the group and raise concerns on both sides of the issue. However, it was raised that any action taken should be focused on the school construction process since that is where concerns were initially raised.

During the meeting, the Task Force reviewed three bills. SB 204, introduced by Senator Roger Manno, would expand the applicability of the prevailing wage law to all local governments and would define the prevailing wage rate as the combined hourly rates of wages and fringe benefits under a collective bargaining agreement.   SB 232, introduced by Senator Norman Stone, would require prevailing wage rates to be paid for a local project receiving any amount of State funds.  This bill is similar to the legislation last year that was amended to create the Task Force. Lastly, SB 1068 increases  the threshold for prevailing wage to apply to a school construction project if at least 75% of the project costs are State-supported.

MACo submitted an opposing position statement on SB 204 and SB 232. From the position statement:

Currently, State prevailing wage laws apply only if at least 50% of the project costs are State-supported. Both of these bills substantially expand the application of the prevailing wage law, increasing project costs and affecting the number of projects budgeted each year.

While each bill offers a different approach, they propose a “one size fits all” prevailing wage determination, which would significantly undermine a local government’s ability to fund and manage its capital budget, especially those smaller in size and in more rural areas of the state.

SB 204 and SB 232 are being heard in the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, February 27. The House crossfile of SB 232, HB 727 is being heard today, February 25.

The Task Force was created by HB 1098 (Ch. 402, Acts of 2013).  As introduced, HB 1098 would have lowered the State funding threshold for which prevailing wage would apply to a local public work project from 50 to 25%. As amended by the House, HB 1098 would have require prevailing wage rates to be paid for a local project receiving any amount of State funds. MACo opposed the bill in this posture stating that this “one size fits all” approach would significantly undermine a local government’s ability to fund and manage its capital budget. MACo then worked on amendments with the Senate Finance Committee to establish the task force and dropped its opposition to the bill.

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