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Council wants review of prevailing wage law

February 22, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Among the legislative priorities of the Franklin County Council of Governments is repealing or revising Pennsylvania's prevailing wage law, although state Sen. Terry Punt said Wednesday that would be a long shot.

"I'll give you 1,000-to-1 odds ... that no legislation repealing prevailing wage will pass in the next two years," said Punt, R-Franklin/Adams/York. Even if it passed the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled house, "The governor will certainly veto the legislation."

"I'm sharing with you some political realities," Punt said, who attended the meeting with the county's four state House members.

Punt said there are two Senate bills that might stand a chance. They would raise the threshold for the prevailing wage law on public works projects to kick in from $25,000 to either $250,000 or $500,000.

Joan Warner, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors Cumberland Valley Chapter, said the prevailing wage in Pennsylvania, based on wages paid in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, adds 20 percent or more to a project's cost.

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"This is not a contractor issue," Warner said. "This is a taxpayer issue."

During the administration of former governor Tom Ridge, Punt said a prevailing wage law based on the wages paid in individual counties was enacted, but later was struck down by the courts. Chambersburg Borough Council President William McLaughlin said the borough saved $6 million on a sewage treatment plant project during the time that law was in effect.

The council of governments also asked the legislators to change the formula used to distribute fuel tax money to counties, and increase funding to townships and boroughs for highway maintenance and construction.

County Commissioner Bob Thomas said the current formula for bridge funding is based on fuel consumption in counties between 1927 and 1929. The county has 92 bridges to maintain, but will get about $270,000 this year for bridge work.

Southampton Township Supervisor Sam Cressler said municipalities received 20 percent of gas tax revenue in 1981, a figure that has fallen to 14.6 percent, and will drop to 12.7 percent under Gov. Ed Rendell's proposed budget.

Punt said much of the money Rendell proposes to raise through a tax on oil companies and by leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike will go to the Port Authority of Pittsburgh and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).

"Does anybody subsidize you to go to work?" said state Rep. Mark Keller, R-Perry/Franklin. SEPTA should raise its fares instead of asking rural Pennsylvanians to subsidize Philadelphia commuters, he said.

"What we need to do is sell SEPTA, not the turnpike," said state Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams/Franklin.

Punt predicted the differences between the Republican-controlled Senate and Rendell are so great that the state will not have a budget approved until well after the June 30 deadline.

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