Prevailing wage study released

The University of Nevada, Reno economics department has released a study of prevailing wages and their impact.

Prevailing wage laws require that the approximate average local wage be paid on public works. Such laws are intended to prevent business from using its enormous influence to drive down wages. In Nevada business has made efforts in most recent legislatures to get the law repealed or its provisions cut (“Prescription for recovery: cut wages,” RN&R, March 14).

The UNR study compared effects on construction costs and construction wages among Mountain states that repealed prevailing wage laws (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and Utah) with Mountain states where the laws were retained (Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming). It found repeal has only a minor impact on wages but drives substantial cuts in employee benefits like health insurance, resulting in increased use of government social services.

The prevailing wage is determined by surveys of the state labor commissioner, though some are caustic toward that office these days. “[T]he existing prevailing wage law has been only sporadically enforced,” wrote columnist Andrew Barbano recently. Responses from employers to the newest survey are due July 15.