Michigan legislators were roundly chastised in April before the statewide ballot proposal to fund road repairs, construction and transportation was soundly defeated by voters. In all areas of the two peninsulas, voters decried the abdication or dereliction of legislative duty to create a plan to “just fix the roads.”
The issue is squarely back in the Capitol awaiting resolution amid increasing constituent anxiety and frustration. Instead, the state Republican Senators hurriedly — within a week — moved and passed legislation to repeal the state’s 50-year-old Prevailing Wage Act, signed into law by Gov. George Romney.
Gov. Rick Snyder has repeatedly made clear his position that this Act is not on his agenda and said even last week he would not sign such a bill.
The governor is right to maintain his stance.
The Associated Press reported the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency indicated in a statement the repeal would have an “indeterminate but likely positive” fiscal impact on state and local governments but added a lack of data makes it difficult to estimate savings with any certainty.
Highway construction projects are most often funded with federal funding, which requires prevailing wages. Romney’s law was struck down in 1994 but was reinstated by a federal appeals court in 1997. The intent of the law was to provide equal footing for union and nonunion labor in competing for state construction jobs.
The Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan last week issued press releases in support of the repeal, citing the cost to business under the wage act. The Business Journal finds incongruity in such speculation over union and non-union wages at a time when the industry is starved for construction trades employees.
The state education effort led by Snyder specifically provides more funding, education and training for skilled trades workers based on the national industry-wide shortage. Such shortages and the increasing wage rates necessitated by demand makes the point moot and serves only to create aggravation between two parties that must get the roads fixed.
Republican House Speaker Kevin Cotter has said the bills will be referred to committee and told Associated Press there is no “firm timeline” for consideration.
Cotter was among the first to begin discussion of specific plans to fund Michigan’s increasingly expensive road repairs. Cotter should stay that course.
Just fix the roads.