(Assemblyman Pat Hickey) – When times get tough, costs for construction usually go down. That certainly is true with the painting business I operate in my other life. And I am sure if you asked my fellow Assemblymen and contractors– Ira Hansen, Crescent Hardy, or John Ellison—they would tell you the same about the price of the construction-related work they do in the private sector. If you can afford it—now is a time to get a great price.
The same is not true for the public sector. Numerous studies show that prevailing wage requirements artificially raise the price of labor for the tax-paying public. Data collected by the Nevada Labor Commissioner’s Office found that for the three-year period of 2005-2007, the state paid approximately $449 million more for taxpayer-funded public works when compared to private sector costs for similar projects.
At a time when the state is straining to find money for school repairs and teachers, we should consider doing what Ohio has done and exempt construction work commissioned by school districts from state prevailing wage requirements. After significant savings, an Ohio Legislative Service Commission Study found that “99.5% of Ohio school districts experienced higher or no change in construction quality” since the passing of their money-saving legislation.
With it costing state government approximately 30% more to have a building constructed than it costs private business, maybe it is time to re-think what prevailing wages are costing Nevada taxpayers. Having that $449 million now would certainly help fill some of the holes in education budgets.
As I said above, when times get tough—they also get contentious. Serving on the three committees in the Assembly that I do, at times, the names of the committees make me laugh. Take “Commerce and Labor,” for instance. With emotions running as strong as Washoe Valley’s prevailing westerly winds, some days I think we could re-name the afternoon committee; “Labor vs. Commerce.” In my morning money committee, “Ways and Means,” it seems that in spite of the all the “ways” we find to spend the taxpayers’ dollars—there are few and fewer “means” by which to fund our good intentions. As for my other afternoon committee, “Legislative Operations and Elections,” I’m reminded that “elections” ought to be in place to serve the voting public, while for the most part the “operations” (or the process)—are set up to accommodate the administrators delivering those duties.
One special opportunity I had this past week really pulled at the heartstrings. Everyone in Nevada remembers the rape and murder case of 19 year-old Brianna Denison. After weeks of hanging blue ribbons on trees and the endless worrying of parents of college co-eds, finally the creep in question James Beila, was captured and sentenced to death. What you may not remember was that the campus attacker had raped two other female students in the UNR area, one of them in the parking garage near where campus police park their cruisers.
One of those young women, Amanda Collins, has been a neighbor of mine for years. This past Friday, I introduced her as she testified before the Senate Government Affairs Committee in favor of granting permission for trained and background approved 21 year- olds to have concealed weapon permits on Nevada college campuses. Amanda’s testimony kept everyone riveted. Given the young woman had been a CCW permit holder and might have prevented Beila from assaulting her and possibly stopping the rapist from committing his evil deeds upon Brianna. University officials are opposing the legislation for safety reasons. Stay tuned for that debate.
It seems a week does not go by at the Legislature without a rally or press conference railing against the Governor and his austere budget in the wake of Nevada’s economic downturn. On Monday, April 18th (Tax Day 2011), I am sponsoring a town hall-style meeting in Senate Room # 1214 entitled “The Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery.” University economists, business leaders, tax experts, and other commentators will be on the panel addressing the state’s spending and funding challenges. Policy makers, the press, and the public are all invited.
(Assemblyman Hickey is a Republican representing District 25 in Washoe County.)