Prevailing Wage

Third and State This Week: Fewer College Grads Starting Businesses and State Revenue Collections in 2012-13

This week at Third and State, we blogged about student loan debt deterring college grads from starting their own businesses, income inequality and efforts to turn back prevailing wage laws for construction workers, and revenue collections during the now-completed 2012-13 Fiscal Year.


  • On higher education, Jamar Thrasher blogged that more and more American college graduates are declining to start their own businesses partly because of the rising costs of tuition and crushing student loan debt.
  • On income inequality and the prevailing wage, Stephen Herzenberg wrote that too many people in the "1%" (and the smaller groups at the very, very top) seem to have convinced themselves that they are not only more deserving but also somehow different than — better than — other people.
  • And on state budget and taxes, Michael Wood shared the following chart tracking monthly revenue collection trends in the now-completed 2012-13 Fiscal Year.
    2012-13 General Fund Revenue Surplus/(Deficit) by Month


Toshi Seeger and Respect for the Working Man and Woman

Toshi Seeger's obituary last week in The New York Times brought a smile to my face.

Toshi provided her husband, the folk singer Pete Seeger, with the organizational skills without which he would have not been so influential or commercially successful.

Toshi also kept him grounded. “I hate it when people romanticize him,” she said. “He’s like anybody good at his craft, like a good bulldozer operator.”

That simple sentiment works in both directions. It helped make sure Pete Seeger would not become too big for his britches. It also communicates deep respect for the bulldozer operator — and for hardworking people more generally.

Third and State This Week: An Education Priorities Problem, Payday Lending, and a Bait and Switch

All of us at Third and State hope you have a great Memorial Day Weekend. Before heading to your weekend barbecues, check out our blog wrap. We wrote this week about a statewide day of action for education, a new survey of school districts squeezed by budget cuts, and a bait and switch approach to tax credit programs for private school scholarships. We also had posts on payday lending, the prevailing wage and more. 


  • On education and the state budget, Mark Price summed up the news coverage from the statewide day of action to mark Education Advocacy Week and explained why the state's approach to school funding is more a priorities problem than a revenue problem. Chris Lilienthal blogged about a new survey of school districts indicating that more cuts to the classroom are on the way thanks in part to state funding cuts. And Stephen Herzenberg wrote that the political marketing of private school scholarship tax credits as alternatives for students in distressed communities is a bait and switch.
  • On federal tax policy and the economy, Chris Lilienthal shared a Marketplace interview with wealthy venture capitalist Nick Hanauer who said that investing in the middle class, rather than tax breaks for the wealthy, is the key to future and shared prosperity.
  • And in Morning Must Reads this week, Mark Price highlighted an editorial on why legalizing predatory payday loans would be bad for Pennsylvania, and passed on a letter to the editor showing that actual Pennsylvania job creators support the state's prevailing wage law.

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Morning Must Reads: Job Creators Love the Prevailing Wage and Predatory Payday Lenders Are Lousy Job Creators

Is the prevailing wage just a battle between business and labor? James Gaffney explains why it isn't in the Harrisburg Patriot-News this morning.

Third and State This Week: Taking on Prevailing Wage, Loopholes vs. Budget Cuts and a Growing Menace

In a number of blog posts this week, we debunked the claims of advocates for repealing or scaling back the state's prevailing wage law. We also shared a chart comparing state tax breaks to budget cuts and posted a Friday Funny featuring the scariest movie trailer this year — on the growing menace of corporate tax loopholes.


  • On jobs and wages, Mark Price published Part 2 and Part 3 of his series fact-checking inaccurate claims about Pennsylvania's prevailing wage law. Part 1 ran last Friday. Mark also explained that to save 50% on public construction projects from repealing prevailing wage, workers would have to pay to work. Finally, Stephen Herzenberg made the case that employing low-wage, low-skill workers on small and medium-sized state-funded construction projects, with no benefit to taxpayers and negative impacts on local economies, is a dumb policy.
  • On the state budget, Chris Lilienthal shared a chart detailing funding cuts that could be restored by closing tax loopholes.
  • In the Morning Must Reads this week, Mark Price highlighted news reports on young workers in the Great Recession; a profile of a pacemaker-dependent child who was denied health care by the state; and the fallout from cutting state support for pre-k and higher education.
  • And the Friday Funny featured a video from Ed Voters that begins: "There's a growing menace and it's coming after you and your family. The horror ... the corporate tax loophole!"

More blog posts next week. Keep us bookmarked and join the conversation!

Adventures in Mathematics: To Save 50% from Prevailing Wage Repeal, Workers Would Have To Pay To Work!

If you are in the Harrisburg area, tune in to WITF's Smart Talk at 8 p.m. tonight to hear a debate about the prevailing wage, including comments from yours truly in the opening news report.

In answering a reporter's question on prevailing wage, I was told about one claim that repealing the prevailing wage could lower total costs by as much as 50%.

Get out your calculator. If you lowered labor costs on a construction project by 99.99%, at most you would lower total costs by 24% (see the table below).

Dumb and Dumber State Construction Policies

I've got an idea: let's employ low-wage, low-skill, and sometime out-of-state workers on small and medium-sized state-funded construction projects, with no benefit to taxpayers and negative impacts on local economies.

Sound like a stupid idea? That's because it is.

Here's the backdrop: Pennsylvania's prevailing wage law requires that workers on state-funded construction projects be paid a wage in line with what most other workers in their trade are paid within a certain geographical area.

Prevailing Wage Opponents Fail to Look at the Research

The Final Part of a Three-part Series on Prevailing Wage. Read Part 1. Read Part 2.

In the first two posts of this series, I explained why the numbers being tossed around by advocates of repealing prevailing wage don’t add up. I explained that the claims of cost-savings are not based on any actual experience and that they represent the result of laughable hypothetical, or “what if,” calculations. 

This leads to the most important point that the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, the Harrisburg Patriot-News Editorial Board and others keep missing: we can do much better than a hypothetical when assessing the impact of prevailing wage laws.

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