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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL)

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011
(ST. PAUL) — Today the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance Committee passed two bills that would dramatically modify the state’s prevailing wage and hour laws. Prevailing wage laws were originally intended to protect local contractors and local workers from out-state contractors looking to obtain jobs based on lower bids with lower wage workers. Republicans are seeking to change the prevailing wage law from being based on the highest wage received by the most workers to a method based on the average wage. State Representative Michael Nelson (DFL – Brooklyn Park) says that these changes will lead to lower wages for Minnesota’s middle-class workers on state projects. “House Republicans are looking to turn Minnesota’s prevailing wage system into a race to the bottom," Rep. Nelson said. “Driving down wages and hurting middle-class workers doesn’t make any sense as we continue to struggle out of a recession.” By using the mean instead of the mode, wages could potentially be reduced significantly. By including more people into the calculation, lower wages that would not have factored into the mode previously would now lower wages for others by being factored in the average. “Prevailing wage laws help local contractors and their employees get jobs, keeping money and tax revenues in our state and local communities,” Rep. Nelson added. “Without these laws, contractors can try to reduce bids for state projects by squeezing wages. Our middle-class and working-class families have already been squeezed enough through rising property taxes, rising gas and food prices, and rising tuition. It’s time to stop placing the burden on our middle class.” The two bills, HF 1032 and HF 1476, now move to the Ways and Means Committee.