Legislature should examine cost of infrastructure improvements, including prevailing wage, before raising taxes
If you had a set income, and only so much in savings, and you decided you had a need to make some improvements to your home, what are you going to do? Most likely you are going to shop around for the best qualified contractor that is going to work at the best price to get the work done.
That’s just common sense.
Could you imagine getting 10 estimates, and without checking a single qualification or reference, taking the 8 with the best price and throwing them away, and then only choosing between the most expensive 20%?
If you can, then congratulations on having that kind of disposable income, but if you are like the rest of us, that just sounds, well, ridiculous.
When it comes to paving roads, repairing bridges, building schools, or other infrastructure, that’s exactly how Trenton approaches the estimates they receive. Prevailing wage laws and Project Labor Agreements make it difficult for any contractor that is not connected with a labor union to bid on this work. Almost 80% of the state’s construction labor force is not a member of a trade union, and they are all left out in the cold. Of course, it is the taxpayer that pays the price for these increased costs, without any increased value or return on your tax investment.
And that leads us to the current proposal twisting state legislator into partisan pretzels to get a deal done. The proposed passage of a regressive $.23 increase in the gas tax is emblematic of all that is wrong with Trenton funding formulas. Mismanagement and raiding of funds leads to crisis situations, and the burden routinely gets dumped back onto the middle class in the form of tax increases.
If New Jersey could find a way to not have the most expensive per lane cost of road construction for example, it would be a good start. Future infrastructure work must be built without using an overly expensive prevailing wage schedule and certainly without discriminatory Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s).
The last study conducted in New Jersey by the Department of Labor found that projects with a Project Labor Agreement attached increased costs by 30.5% compared to non-PLA projects.
It’s long overdue that our Legislature become better stewards of the taxpayer investment. Instead of adding hundreds of dollars in taxes to each middle class resident, let’s try reducing cost and more efficiently managing tax payer dollars.
Dominick Mondi is the President of the Associated Builder and Contractor, New Jersey Chapter.