Letter to the editor: Repeal of common construction wage law unnecessary

March 31, 2015

To the Editor:

The legislation to repeal our state’s common construction wage law (House Bill 1019) is unnecessary and shortsighted. If one were planning to build a house, the prudent course of due diligence would be to research possible home builders, while the primary decision factors would be quality of workmanship and price. If one were to make the decision regarding a builder– or indeed any type of purchase– based solely upon the bargain basement price, then there is a very good chance that you will be victimized by the well-known maxim that “you get what you pay for.”

The common wage process merely establishes the level of a fair wage for quality workmanship on public construction projects. A similar procedure is applicable to public construction projects receiving federal funds under the Davis-Bacon Act.

The common wage requirement, which has been in effect for decades, is thus in part intended to ensure the “quality” component of public construction projects by allowing contractors and subcontractors to compete while still employing the most experienced and qualified carpenters, laborers, drywall installers, and the like. If the sole criterion for the award of a public construction project is the lowest bid, then such contractors will have the opposite incentive to utilize the least experienced and less qualified workforce. As taxpayers, we will then be the victims of “you get what you pay for.”

When we assumed office in January, 2011, it was common knowledge that some contractors were cheating on the common wage requirement and thus undercutting legitimate contractors in the bid process. We have since obtained convictions in the only three common wage criminal violations ever successfully prosecuted in Indiana. The public projects involved in these cases included access curbs and sidewalks in Center Township, work at Barton Towers as part of a $7 million project led by the Indianapolis Housing Agency, and work on Indianapolis Public School properties.

I repeat again– you get what you pay for. It is the responsibility of government officials to be stewards of public dollars, and the dynamic process of establishing a local common wage and accepting bids for public projects is an important component of the due diligence expected by the residents of a community. We believe taxpayers deserve quality workmanship and public projects that will endure. The common construction wage should not be repealed.

Terry R. Curry
Marion County Prosecutor

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