Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has vetoed a bill that would have significantly changed the prevailing wage calculation process by tying wage rates to union collective bargaining agreements, the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) reports.
In vetoing the bill, Rauner said Senate Bill 2964 would effectively discount the wage rates of those who have chosen not to join a union and who make up a majority of the construction workforce.
“To limit the prevailing wage to the wage specified in a collective bargaining agreement would mean disregarding all those workers whose wages are not set by that agreement,” Rauner said in his veto message. “Senate Bill 2964 would fix prevailing wage to the wage applicable to as few as 30 percent of the workers in a given trade, meaning that the wage applicable to the remaining 70 percent of workers would be disregarded.” He also noted that the bill would raise the cost of taxpayer-funded projects and take too much power from local governments in determining their own prevailing wage rates.
ABC of Illinois president Alicia Martin expressed support for Rauner’s veto and referenced a 2014 study released by the Anderson Economic Group that showed prevailing wage rates increased school construction costs by about $1 billion over a decade-long period. “Each year, $2.9 billion in school construction expenditures are subject to Illinois’ prevailing wage laws. From 2002 to 2011, this amounted to over $29 billion. In absence of prevailing wage, the study estimated Illinois taxpayers could have saved $158 million each of the past 10 years,” she said.
In addition to his veto, Rauner also outlined a number of technical changes to the bill, including some that would preserve the authority of local governments in calculating and setting prevailing wage rates.
Not surprisingly, the labour movement isn’t happy with Rauner’s veto decision.
“Gov. Rauner has shown, once again, that his personal agenda is more important than the people of Illinois, said Illinois AFL-CIO president Michael T. Carrigan. “Gov. Rauner’s amendatory vetoes of Senate Bills 2964, 2536 and 2931 House Bill 5764 continue his mission of eroding the middle class in Illinois by making it as difficult as possible to increase the wages of Illinois working families.
“Prevailing wage laws ensure our tax dollars stay in our communities with local contractors and local workers. Senate Bill 2964 would have simplified ascertaining the prevailing wage for everyone,” Carrigan said in a statement. “The governor says he supports local control, but when you don’t enforce prevailing wage laws, it is our local contractors and working families that lose.”
The legislature may try to override the governor’s veto later this year. Capital Fax.com reports the original bill passed with veto-proof majorities in both chambers. It attracted GOP votes in the House, but one of those Republican proponents, John Anthony, has since left for an administration job.