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Prevailing wage an issue again in General Assembly

Delaware Public Media

Some Republican lawmakers are trying again to change how Delaware sets its prevailing wage rate. They said the current method inflates the costs of public works projects.

Delaware currently uses wage surveys to calculate the state’s prevailing wage. That’s the minimum the state is required to pay workers on large construction projects.

But Republican State Sen. Gerald Hocker of Ocean View said that method is unfair to small contractors wanting to bid on construction projects. He’s proposing Delaware use the state’s payroll data instead. Hocker says that would help contractors and save money.

“And then there’s projects that don’t even get built because of the cost, the cost overrides," he said. "I feel if we have a fair prevailing wage, a wage that’s competitive with our neighboring states, we’ll really you know save the taxpayers of Delaware money.”

But Delaware AFL-CIO President James Maravelias said restructuring the survey process will cost the state a lot of time and money. He also disputes the claim that the survey system is unfair. He said the problem is businesses are not filling out the surveys.

Briggs King said the surveys are time consuming and calls the survey unreliable because some businesses don’t fill it out.

“The Department of Labor ought to be able to figure out a way to take the information and data they already receive and to import that data so that they can complete wage surveys that relate to any and all wages and especially to those that would be for prevailing wage,” she said.

Maravelias says one reason companies may not be filling out the surveys is to avoid financial scrutiny. But he adds the unions are transparent and open about wage information.

If passed into law, the legislation would take effect in January 2019.

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