Some of your tax dollars go to pay public employees, but do you know how much?  You should.  We’ve seen some numbers, and in a lot of cases they’re pretty absurd.  One example: the state Labor Department is using emergency funds to clean up Poughkeepsie’s Fallkill Creek, which was damaged last summer during the flooding brought on by Hurricane Irene.  But how much do you think those cleanup crews are making?  The current minimum wage of $7.25?  A little over the minimum wage?  Have a guess?  How would you feel if it is over $50 an hour? 

That’s right, these temporary workers hired to clean up the creek will be making $51.71 an hour.  That comes to over $20K for 12 weeks of work.  If employed for an entire year, the people would get over $100K.  That’s a pretty good paycheck.  That’s a really good paycheck actually.  Is it ridiculous?  Yes.  Is it out of the ordinary for New York?  No.  In fact, it’s the reason why right now we are fighting a bill that would expand the definition of a “service worker” that is entitled to receive prevailing wage.

As was recently highlighted in a Columbia University report, New York State taxpayers are being overcharged for public works projects by applying prevailing wage rates that are up to twice the market wage. As a small refresher, prevailing wage is supposed to be the hourly wage, including benefits and overtime, paid to workers in a particular trade (specifically for public construction projects).  The problem is prevailing wage is now doing the opposite, raising the cost of public works instead of making them competitive with private projects.

Taxpayers cannot afford to pay double the cost for infrastructure and public works projects.  New York’s infrastructure needs a great deal of work, but taxpayers shouldn’t suffer because of government overspending.  Reforming the prevailing wage law is a common sense place to start if New York wants to better capitalize on its resources.  The state needs to recognize where waste exists before it can honestly say that it’s doing what’s best for residents.