- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2001

President George W. Bush is apparently considering issuing an executive order to end the union-manufactured imbroglio that threatens to hold up the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project. Mr. Bush's proposed order would ban union-only contracting rules which are in force in Maryland and have become a contentious issue between that state and Virginia, a right-to-work state.
Virginia is balking at Maryland's insistence on using union-only work crews under its Project Labor Agreements, or PLAs, because it understandably believes the use of unionized labor protected from market pressures will lead to delays and cost-overruns. Maryland claims the opposite that the use of union-only labor will make the bridge project go more smoothly and reduce costs. The inability of Maryland and Virginia to arrive at some compromise threatens to delay construction and hold up more than $2 billion in funds earmarked by Congress for the much-needed project.
According to reports, the executive order under consideration by Mr. Bush would ban PLAs on any project that receives federal aid. Maryland would either have to give up its PLAs or the new bridge simply won't get built. Since that isn't likely to happen given the fallout that would rain down on the heads of Maryland's Democratic lawmakers, including Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Mr. Bush's executive order could be just what the doctor ordered.
Union-only contracting rules that insulate construction projects from market competition are a recipe for delays and excessive costs, and Virginia is correct to complain about them. Virginia taxpayers would be left holding the bag for any cost-overruns, either in the form of lost revenue from the state's General Fund, or through a tax increase to cover the shortfall. Virginia taxpayers are already threatened with the recission of at least part of the promised tax relief that was to come their way via the final elimination of Virginia's hated personal property tax on motor vehicles, the so-called "car tax." With the state scrambling to find nickels here and dimes there, there is simply no money available to finance Maryland's make-work PLA rules.
Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer refused to make any official comment on the rumored executive order "unless or until President Bush issues them." We hope Mr. Fleischer will have something to comment on very soon.

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