My Turn: The conservative case for a prevailing wage

For the Monitor
Published: 5/8/2019 12:10:20 AM

There’s an old saying that the best social welfare program is a “good-paying job with excellent benefits,” and I couldn’t possibly agree more. While most elected officials agree with this idea in principle, we often disagree on the best path forward. New Hampshire has some of the best-trained and hardest workers in the country, and it’s high time we treated them accordingly. This is why I’m asking my fellow Republicans to support Senate Bill 271 and finally establish a prevailing wage in New Hampshire.

Prevailing wage law states that contractors must offer competitive wages and benefits on taxpayer-funded projects. This accomplishes two things: First, it ensures that public projects enjoy a quality of workmanship that cut-rate contractors cannot provide, saving taxpayers millions of dollars over the long term. Second, it affords locally trained New Hampshire workers the ability to work close to home. Many of our best-trained workers are forced to seek employment in neighboring states where prevailing wage ensures that pay is higher, while local construction jobs go to out-of-state contractors offering a lower quality of service.

A recent study by economists at the Keystone Research Center, a nonpartisan economic policy organization, concluded that establishing a prevailing wage in New Hampshire would add up to 4,000 local jobs to our economy because it would diminish out-of-state contractors’ ability to undercut our local workforce. This law would also provide health coverage to approximately 2,500 construction workers – reducing the number of our hard-working men and women who rely on the government for assistance. The same study concluded that passing a prevailing wage would increase economic activity by $680 million in New Hampshire and raise up to $17 million in new state and local tax revenue.

Passing a prevailing wage also establishes an enforcement protocol to ensure that contractors don’t miscategorize workers or hire undocumented workers to artificially lower their bids. This malicious practice both undercuts our local workforce and provides a lower quality of service on taxpayer-funded projects.

And it’s important to note that better-compensated workers generally turn in a higher quality of work. These higher wages and benefits help finance rigorous training and continuing education programs that keep New Hampshire workers at the cutting edge of new methods and technologies – training that poorly compensated workers typically do not enjoy.

This issue is not about union vs. non-union. This issue is about ensuring the most prudent use of our taxpayer dollars. Establishing a prevailing wage ensures that taxpayer-funded projects get done better, on time and under budget. This is why I’m urging my colleagues to put partisanship aside, vote for SB 271 and finally establish a prevailing wage in New Hampshire.

(Troy Merner, a Lancaster Republican, represents Coos District 7 in the N.H. House of Representatives.)




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