If you ask a West Virginian what they’d change about our state, there’s a high chance you would hear about potholes, crumbling roads, or poor internet connection.
They’re common complaints among many who live in the Wild and Wonderful. And they’re partially to blame for our population declining as young adults seek less complicated, more lucrative areas of the country to put down roots.
The truth is that despite our state’s natural beauty and abundance of outdoor activities, much of our infrastructure was constructed years ago and is in bad shape. An executive summary from The West Virginia Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave our state an overall grade of “D” in infrastructure, with bridges, dams, roads, and wastewater labeled as “poor, at-risk.” These issues are a nuisance to everyday life, public safety hazards, and barriers to economic prosperity.
So, where does that leave us? While potholes, clean drinking water, and internet access may present different challenges, an important law could be part of the answer. A law that would not only keep high-paying jobs in-state but would also invigorate West Virginia’s infrastructure.
As it turns out, that law used to exist in West Virginia.
For many years, West Virginia’s Prevailing Wage Law helped make the most of our tax dollars and supported our local communities. In 2016, however, lawmakers repealed the law claiming it would save money. The saving never materialized, and the repeal backfired in a big way.
In simple terms, prevailing wage is the minimum hourly wage employers must pay local workers for government-funded infrastructure projects. Prevailing Wage ensures local workers are paid fairly – based on a regional survey of rates for their particular level of skill and experience. Prevailing wage laws attract highly skilled workers and make the most of each taxpayer’s dollar spent.
How does prevailing wage help improve infrastructure in West Virginia?
What does prevailing wage have to do with fixing potholes and creating better roads? It’s a cyclical effect, so let’s break it down:
- Prevailing wage laws put tax-paying West Virginians to work.
- More local employment means more tax revenue for road improvements, reliable internet access, and other boosts in infrastructure.
- Highly skilled local workers deliver better outcomes on construction projects across the state. And these workers spend their paychecks here at home.
- Better roads, improved water systems, reliable internet, and other essential shared resources help retain tax-paying residents and attract new ones.
Now is a pivotal time for infrastructure across the country. The American Jobs Plan will allot $2 trillion to improve roads, bridges, water systems, airports, internet service and, other projects throughout the state.
Funding is just one part of the puzzle for West Virginia, though. With a hefty amount of government dollars coming our way, the other piece is ensuring we keep the jobs this funding provides and the dollars those jobs generate in-state. Enter—prevailing wage. We can be sure West Virginia contractors and their local workers will get the first crack at tax-funded infrastructure projects with prevailing wage.
But will our leaders recognize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity the American Jobs Plan brings to West Virginia? Will they restore our Prevailing Wage Law and ensure that local workers and our local economies prosper? Or will they allow out-of-state companies and their imported workers to steal our jobs? Do we want low-wage, unskilled workers building our bridges, schools? Or do we want high-quality, stable infrastructure projects constructed by tax-paying West Virginia workers?
Find your West Virginia representatives here and reach out to them to let them know you would like them to reinstate the Prevailing Wage Law.
You can help restore the Prevailing Wage Law by signing the petition. Sign your name, share with your friends, and let’s restore the Prevailing Wage Law to help keep our young people here and move West Virginia forward.