Monday, January 11, 2010

The Prevailing Wages of Sin...

And now it's Luke's turn on the Prevailing Wage see-saw:

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl kicked off the second half of a bruising fight over new rules for development subsidies yesterday, proposing his own version of prevailing wage legislation that he vetoed on New Year's Eve...

The mayor's version would exclude infrastructure spending, investments by city authorities, and federal or state funds from the calculation, and would exclude any project in which the remaining city subsidy was less than 10 percent of the total project cost.
It would also exclude any projects that were actually built in Pittsburgh, if my sources in the Mayor's Office are to be believed. Critics of the bill are right to point out that there would probably be only a handful of projects that these new rules would be applicable to, which is either (a) the Mayor's point or (b) a cynical political ploy to pass a prevailing wage bill without really passing a prevailing wage bill.

Of course, these are not mutually exclusive.

But what got me was this provision:
It would only take effect if Allegheny County approved similar legislation.
Which sort of makes sense as the City's commercial market is porous and does not stop at Summer Hill, or Overbrook, or Fairywood, or Regent Square; so, it would be just as easy for a small municipality (where one does not have to deal with the same level of regulation) to siphon off development. This is the same argument that the opponents to the County smoking ban used.

There is an opportunity here for prevailing wage supporters: the cynical side of the coin says that the County would never pass a prevailing wage bill, so the whole damned thing is a moot point anyway. HOWEVER, there is a certain county executive who "has been working very hard to earn the support of organized labor," and expects "o have some announcements coming up. So, what better way to win the doorknocking prowess of the SEIU, than to help them win, not just a City ordnance, but an entire County?

But then, you still have to deal with the reality that grocery stores, for example, would be much more likely to start up in suburban greenfield areas (where they don't need assistance) than in urban brownfield sites (where the need for nutritional security is greatest).

And to answer your question with another question Chris: would Henry George consider prevailing wage a "tariff" on labor?

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