The House of Representatives is voting on the Highway Trust Fund this week. Numerous amendments have been added to the bill. One that should garner support from fiscal conservatives is Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) amendment that makes sure tax dollars spent on federal construction are used efficiently by repealing Davis-Bacon Act price-fixing requirements for projects funded by the bill.
The Davis-Bacon Act increases government construction costs by requiring contractors to pay prevailing wages on federally funded projects instead of market wages. Without having to pay inflated Davis-Bacon wages, the federal government could undertake more construction projects—build more bridges and buildings, employ more workers—or save the government money.
Tax dollars should always be used wisely and there is no reason the federal government should use more of the taxpayers’ money than necessary to perform construction.
On average, the Davis-Bacon Act forces the government to pay up to 22 percent above market rates on construction projects. Unions, always a proponent of distorting markets and wages, benefit from the inflated wage requirement because it protects them from competition on federal construction projects. With the fixed wage required by Davis-Bacon, a non-union construction firm cannot underbid a union firm on a job.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, repealing the Davis-Bacon Act could end up “saving $13 billion in discretionary outlays from 2015 through 2023.”
In equal importance to using tax dollars wisely, the Davis-Bacon Act’s history is marred with racism. In 1931, Rep. Miles Clayton Allgood of Alabama spoke in support of the then Davis-Bacon bill on the House Floor, stating, “Reference has been made to a contractor from Alabama who went to New York with bootleg labor. That is a fact. That contractor has cheap colored labor that he transports, and he puts them in cabins, and it is labor of that sort that is in competition with white labor throughout the country.”
As George Leef, director of research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, sarcastically wrote, “The Horror—allowing some workers to compete by accepting lower compensation!”
All the amendment does is remove an unneeded special interest giveaway and requires tax dollars to be used prudently.
Unfortunately, last time this issue came up, 52 Republicans voted against Rep. Steve King’s amendment to prohibit Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements for projects funded by the military construction and the Department Veterans Affairs appropriations bill.
It is surprising that so many Republicans voted in favor of supporting the private interests of labor unions instead of the American public.
We will monitor the vote that should occur this week and update the post to show which Republican legislators vote against taxpayer interests.