On Tuesday, everyone in the Capitol anticipated a final vote in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on a bill to increase the “prevailing wage” threshold for public construction projects from $25,000 to $185,000.
This bill would save state and local taxpayers an estimated $30-$60 million annually. These saving would be minor in the context of the $4 billion in government construction spending, as costs for most new buildings or roads far exceed $185,000, but not insignificant. In contrast to the important reforms we’ve seen in other states, this is a minor tweak to a costly mandate, yet it has become a heavy lift in the House. They are throwing around nickels like they are manhole covers.
True, this would be the first time in 50 years that Pennsylvania touched this union legislative carve-out that unnecessarily drives up costs for taxpayers at every level of government (school districts, counties, townships, boroughs and the state). But it’s not even close to a full repeal of a law that only benefits unions at the expense of the taxpayers. Yet the final vote got postponed last night.
Once more we were reminded that it is the Union Party that wields the majority in Pennsylvania, despite wide GOP majorities in both the House and Senate. The Taxpayer Party continues to be the oppressed minority with enough Union-Republicans joining the solidly Union-Democrats to stop every piece of legislation that would take the unions’ boots off the taxpayers necks and out of our pockets.
Last month, GOP-controlled Indiana sent an “Open for Business” message across the nation when it became the 23rd state to end compulsory unionism. Yet GOP-controlled Pennsylvania can’t even get an inflationary adjustment to a law that should be repealed altogether.
To be sure, the Union Party has been losing its majority grip on Pennsylvania for a number of election cycles. Some of its biggest apologists and defenders have been removed from office, are in prison or are on their way. But as the threshold debate has revealed, the Taxpayer Party is still in the minority in Pennsylvania.
The good news, however, is that a vote will likely be taken and we will finally see which Party – Union or Taxpayer – every member of the House identifies with. Then, finally, we the taxpayers can work towards becoming the majority party in our state rather than being the servants of the unions.
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