The Pa. Prevailing Wage Act mandates the payment of specified wages for publicly-funded public works contracts of $25,000 or more. The wages are typically tied to the wages established by area collective bargaining agreements.
Currently, there are a number of proposed amendments to the Act which would alter application of the Act to different public contracts.
House Bill 709, or the “School Construction Cost Reduction Act,” would exempt school districts as a public entity required to pay prevailing wages, unless the school board votes to be subject to prevailing wage.
House Bill 1329 would raise the contract monetary limit from $25,000 to $185,000. The $25,000 limit was set in 1961.
There are opposing viewpoints on the various proposed amendments to the Act as well as to the general concept of payment of prevailing wages on public contracts. Viewpoints in favor of the amendments and against the Act can be found here and here. Viewpoints in favor of the Act and opposing the proposed amendments can be found here and here.
Needless to say, the proposed amendments would radically alter the landscape of public contracting in Pennsylvania. Whether such an altered landscape would actually result in lower construction costs for public entities and taxpayers, without a reduction in decent, middle class wages for workers on public works projects, is an open question. In all likelihood, the possibility of significantly lower costs on public contracts is probably just an illusion, and something touted by politicians looking for votes.