During my short time in Harrisburg, the number one issue that I have heard about from my constituents has been the elimination of property taxes. One of my first acts as a Pennsylvania State Senator was to sign on as a co-sponsor to Senate Bill 76, which would eliminate property taxes and replace the revenue with an increased and expanded sales tax and an increased personal income tax. While Senate Bill 76 is stalled in committee due to a lack of support, I will continue to work diligently to find a solution to the problem of oppressive property taxes.
I believe that in order to address property tax reform, we also must address the spending side of the equation. School district budgets continue to grow, and mandates from the General Assembly are causing many of these increases. One of these mandates that I believe should immediately be changed is the Prevailing Wage Act which increases the costs of new construction and ongoing maintenance and repair projects.
The Prevailing Wage Act artificially inflates the cost of construction projects for schools, taking money directly out of the pocket of property owners that could be used for basic education costs. At a time when schools are struggling to make ends meet because of exploding pension costs, the repeal of the Prevailing Wage Act for schools would provide critical budgetary relief.
In this struggling economy, every dollar matters. When we are talking about the education of our children, it is imperative that any added costs for construction are justified. The Prevailing Wage Act is yet another mandate from state government on school districts that keeps property taxes on the rise.
One specific example is a York County school district that replaced a roof in 2010. The school district received a price of $84,504 using non-prevailing wage labor and also received a price of $126,825 using prevailing wage labor. Due to the mandate, the district was forced to spend an additional $42,321, an increase of 50%.
For everyone to better understand the problem that we have, envision that you own a home and your roof needs replaced. You are quoted a price of $7500 dollars. However, thanks to a state mandate, you cannot use the contractor that gave you that price. Instead, you must use a government contractor at a price of $11,250.
The State Senate is only scheduled to be in session for eleven days this fall, and I can assure you that I will be making the most out of this time to attempt to convince my colleagues to pass legislation that would eliminate prevailing wage for school districts. My constituents were gracious enough to send me to Harrisburg in order to fight on their behalf, and this is just another battle in that fight – a battle that I intend to win.
Scott R. Wagner
Senator, 28th District, York County