06.07.2013 21

Paul Ryan’s vote to uphold Davis-Bacon prevailing wages

By Robert Romano

Such much for cutting federal spending.

House Chairman of the Budget Committee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) joined with 35 House Republicans along with every Democrat who voted in defeating an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have repealed the 82-year old Davis-Bacon prevailing wages mandate for federal contractors.

The result? Less bang for the buck for taxpayers on federal projects. A 2011 study by Heritage Foundation Senior Policy Analyst in Labor Economics James Sherk found that repealing Davis-Bacon would save taxpayers $10.9 billion on federal construction projects a year.

Americans for Limited Government President Nathan Mehrens blasted the outcome.

“Prevailing wages demand that the U.S. Department of Labor set the cost for labor for federal government construction contractors rather than having the taxpayers get the benefit of competitive labor cost bidding,” Mehrens explained.

In a political climate where Republicans routinely rail against trillion-dollar annual deficits, cutting almost $11 billion from federal construction costs should have been easy.

But even if members had preferred that federal construction spending levels be kept the same, the change in law still could have meant almost 10 percent more construction occurring than otherwise would have.

Either way taxpayers would have won. But Ryan and his 35 House Republican colleagues disagreed.

Repealing Davis-Bacon has been thought to be an article of faith for Republicans, Mehrens noted.  “The impact of Davis-Bacon on increasing the cost of government has been so extreme that the 2012 Republican National Committee’s official platform called for its repeal.”

But that did not stop Ryan, the party’s former vice-presidential nominee. When given the opportunity, he broke his own party’s promise to do away with these requirements that unnecessarily cost billions of additional tax dollars every year.

Ryan’s continued refusal to do away with Davis-Bacon — he passed on the opportunity in a similar vote in 2011 — is even more mysterious when one considers just how dramatically the political landscape has been transformed in Wisconsin. Particularly, since Republican Gov. Scott Walker assumed office there in 2011.

A hint to Ryan’s reluctance may come in the failure of Assembly Bill 233 in the Wisconsin Assembly in March 2012. That legislation would have carved out an exemption from the prevailing wage law for public works projects 85 percent privately funded.

Not an unreasonable proposal. But it went nowhere, dying in committee.

Considering some of Walker’s reforms that have passed, that may even be more mysterious. He has repealed collective bargaining for certain public sector workers, reasserting legislative sovereignty over budget matters — rather than requiring big labor’s assent to make any changes to pension and health care plans. Union dues being automatically taken out of public sector workers’ wages was also abolished.

In comparison, repealing prevailing wage laws or even limiting them is innocuous.

Yet, despite a public mandate to rein in public sector union excesses, even members of the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Assembly are not willing — yet — to take aim at prevailing wage laws.

Despite union membership nationwide reaching almost a 100-year low — only 11.3 percent of the workforce is unionized, the lowest since 1916 — prevailing wage law’s survival to date could mean that big labor is still a force to be reckoned with.

Perhaps Wisconsin Republicans will try again this year to limit the state’s prevailing wage laws.

In the meantime, nationally the issue leaves Republicans like Ryan with something of a political dilemma. How can they claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility if they are unwilling to fully take on one of the drivers of escalating government costs?

Moreover, what good is a Republican majority if it cannot even pass, let alone enact, some of its most important reforms?

It makes one wonder why the Republicans bother to create a party platform at all.

Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government. 

  • Edward Perkins

    I have supported Paul Ryan but won’t in the future. He is no longer a real conservative. He obviously believes he can’t succeed politically as a conservative. He recently changed his position on same sex marriage. Now he won’t even go for the low hanging fruit like Bacon Davis. Get a grip Paul!

  • Paul Ryan’s family wealth is in a construction company. That company has a good relationship with at least one construction union. That union supports Ryan’s election campaigns. Enough said!? Maybe not. The Davis-Bacon Act is designed to protect unions and union construction companies from competition, at great expense to the taxpayers. Ryan is a politician. What do you expect from a politician?

  • pduffy

    The term “no longer” does not apply. He never was one, just claimed he was to get elected.

  • pduffy

    “Cursed is the man who trusts in man”. (Jer 17:5). This is what you get when you believe a lying politician. There is no difference between one politician and another, regardless of ‘party’ affiliation, they all act in their OWN interest without exception.

  • SalMoanella

    Ryan makes his bid to over take McCain, Graham and Rubio for the King of the RINO’s crown. He supports amnesty and the bailouts and creates demlite budgets. This guy, like the others mentioned, is a disgrace to conservatives.

  • Frustrated

    We do a fair amount of prevailing wage work. We hate it. The whole process is fraught with problems and ridiculous costs. The work we did at the San Diego International Airport was nuts – we were frequently not even able to do the work we should have been doing – but it was what they wanted – some engineer in India created the specs, and no amount of reality on the ground was going to trump those specs. What a colossal waste of taxpayer money.

  • jerpat

    @Robert – and others…..could it be that Ryan isn’t exactly in a safe district, there was no way the repeal was going to make it through the Senate and this is was a throw away vote that had he voted for it could be enough to cost him his next election? Why would you expect Ryan to put his seat on the line for a vote that wouldn’t change the ultimate destiny of the bill?

    Politically, while I’m as big of a fan as anyone of platform adherence and purity, it would have been stupid for Ryan to vote against Davis-Bacon at this time. Work to win back the Senate and try again.

  • Frustrated unemployed

    Noted. But unemployment benefits cut 16.36% May 2013 because those folks can easily live on less. Again, I advocate cutting salaries of Congress and mandating term limits.

  • daveveselenak

    The two-headed, one party syatem need’s to be taken down! They got their’s and now they want yours and they will unless you stop this communist regime!

  • WesTexan

    In the end, there’s little difference between Democrats and Republicans—with a very few outstanding exceptions. Otherwise, they’re all politicians taking care of themselves. Ryan, Rubio, McCain, etc. are simply self-serving political hacks. They do not represent us; they don’t want to represent us.

    Even if a majority of voters decided to ban together to rid the party of RINOs—let’s call it the Tea Party—it would still take 20 years for the lake to turn over so we could skim off the sludge. The Bill of Rights and the Constitution, for all practical purposes, are simply history. In terms of the nation, these are sad times we live in.

  • okseabat

    Another RINO sticks his head above water. Wes Texan has got a good point. It seems that we don’t have the RNC and the DNC anymore. If you look at one you see the other too. If the Tea party could get their poop together they could be a formidable patriotic party. But, Each little Pod has its own agenda with nothing nationally that can be called a common platform other than make more RINOs . I can almost understand them at times but they will never have any major national support unless they come out of the closet with and agenda that is fully entwined in constitution patriotism. Personalities and personal agendas set aside with a common platform created. Forget sex, color, race, religion, social status, income levels and think United state of America. That is what the original Tea Party in Boston harbor was all about. Get rid of oppression and attain freedom.

  • Poppo

    There are 2 classes in this country. The ruling elite and their masters, and ‘we the people’. The only use for ‘we the people’ is to provide the taxes to fund the elite and their masters.

    Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

  • Poppo

    Your thoughtful comments just reinforce the fact that our political system is out of control.

  • jerpat

    Poppo – I’m not convinced that taking ones constituency into account is proof of an out of control system.

    The fact that Ryan didn’t tow the party line, presumably with his constituency in mind, it would seem to demonstrate the opposite.

  • Jack Parker

    Just when you think you’ve found a real conservative politician (Ryan) he does something like this. Another argument for term limits.

  • gwedem5995

    Like my dad said, if they aren’t crooks before they get elected, they soon will be.

  • George Blumel

    “By Their Votes Ye Shall Know Them!” And only
    by their votes –not their rhetoric!

    For all the reasons citedin the article Paul Ryan, of all people in congress, should have voted to limit this economy killing taxpayer burden ($billions!) but No! he went with the Dems to empower unions (whose dues go directly to the Dem party). Another example of why we need term limits on
    congress (go here to sign petition http://www.termlimits.org).
    I suppose Ryan thinks he needs to mollify unions in his district to get
    reelected –getting reelected is Job #1 to a career pol, the country comes way after that. Whatever happened to principle?

    At least all* of our Florida Repubs voted for the bill but, of course, all the big spenders in the Dems voted against it –*except for the RINOs Diaz-Balart and Ross-Lehtinen and impeached federal judge Alcee Hastings who didn’t bother to vote at all. Not one Dem in the entire congress voted for this muli-$billion reform! Why? In order to funnel tax money to the unions that funnel it back to the Dems.
    That’s how far we’ve descended. To the politicians, the economy, jobs
    and taxpayers are the least of their concerns.

  • George Blumel

    I don’t know how you could put Rubio in that category –his voting record is THE BEST in Florida from a Repub platform and fiscal responsibility view.. He does need to be careful with the monstrosity the immigration bill has become., tho.

  • rockyvnvmc

    The Davis Bacon Act was established to assure that a communitys’ standard of living was observed, when considering competitive bidding. It also assured that Union, School Trained, Apprenticeship Graduate Journeyman Building Tradesmen/women would be employed. Thus ensuring the Quality of said projects.
    The Vast majority of Non Union construction workers have little or no schooling , in their fields and not necessarily any guaranteed Experience at their jobs, either.
    A co-worker & I worked, next to, a non union contractor, in Coldwater MI, back in the late 1970’s, on similar projects. We had the right to hire, from the local union hall, if we needed any help. We not only provided a Much Higher Quality end product, but brought the job in 3 weeks ahead of schedule and didn’t have to hire Anyone, except a hydraulic crane w/ operator, with just the two of us doing all of the work.
    The non union crew were hacking and wacking apart a rectangular fitting trying to arrive at a change , from square to round pipe. We just ordered a square to round fitting, made at our shop. It was beautiful, to see their faces, when it arrived. They had No Clue, as how to lay one out and form it, properly. Where-as ALL Journeyman, in the Sheet Metal Trade know how to do it, without breaking a sweat.
    Training is why we make the big bucks (getting Smaller, by the year, tho-)

  • WesTexan

    That’s my point. He’s standing with McCain and others to pass this atrocious amnesty bill. That bill alone is like the hole in the dike—it will guarantee rampant voter fraud and socialists will finally have the what they need to turn this country forever into a socialist hell. Rubio either supports it or opposes it. At this moment he’s a democrat in a republican suit—supporting an illegal act.

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