- Associated Press - Monday, June 8, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The construction trade expects West Virginia’s prevailing wage to disappear temporarily after state lawmakers voted Monday against giving workforce officials more time to recalculate it.

The vote came during a testy meeting, in which some lawmakers and legislative attorneys said Workforce West Virginia and state university economists fell short of a new law’s requirements to recalculate the wage.

The law tasks Workforce West Virginia and Marshall University and West Virginia University economists with coming up with a new wage by July 1. The three groups presented their methodology Monday to a Republican-led legislative panel, as required by the law. Most lawmakers opposed how the rate would be reworked.

The law also gives the legislative panel an option to let the economists have until September 30 to reconfigure the rates. However, after scrutinizing the methodology, lawmakers opted against extending the deadline in a party-line vote.

“I don’t think we’re going to do any service to the citizens of West Virginia if we protract, or extend, this flawed process,” said Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan.

Affiliated Construction Trades Director Steve White said that, come July, there will be no prevailing wage until a new wage is calculated.

That would apply to new contracts after that deadline, not existing ones.

Ultimately, Workforce West Virginia decides the wage under the new law. The Legislature can come back and try to change the law when the next legislative session starts in January.

Lawmakers were concerned when officials only produced a summary of their methodology Monday, and not an entire report. It was due June 1.

The committee’s attorneys said the methodology didn’t comply with the new law because it accounted for fringe benefits and relied on an additional survey. Democrats said the methodology was within the law’s parameters.

Democrats said that without an extension to September 30, businesses would suffer.

“This committee itself doesn’t know what we’re voting on, or what the wages are going to be,” said Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall. “How on earth is anybody who is going to have to submit a bid on July 1?”

The law already has eliminated the prevailing wage for projects using $500,000 or less in public money.

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