Grass Valley, Truckee watch as prevailing wage bill moves through California legislature
Municipal leaders in Grass Valley and Truckee, both charter cities, are keeping an eye on a California Senate bill that would require them to impose a minimum pay for workers on locally funded public works projects or lose out on other state funds.
The bill, SB7, garnered state senate approval May 28 and is currently held at desk in the assembly, where it was first read May 29.
Prevailing wages are the basic hourly rate, including benefits and overtime, paid to the majority of workers on public works projects in a particular craft or type of work within an area or the nearest labor market area.
On state prevailing wage projects, all bidders are required to use the same wage rates when bidding on a public works project, a tactic aimed at prohibiting a contractor from underbidding competitors by cutting the wages of their workers.
While the practice is already mandated on projects with state or federal funding, if SB7 is passed, it would require charter cities to adopt the same pay rules even when a project is funded locally or become ineligible to receive or use state funds for other public works projects.
Grass Valley joined the League of California Cities in opposition to the bill, calling it an overreach of the state into funding local projects. Truckee leaders also say the bill is contrary to its charter.
“This is a bad thing for our city,” said Jan Arbuckle, a Grass Valley city councilwoman who sits on the board of directors of the League of California Cities, in an April interview with The Union.
“The state is once again trying to take away our local control, this time on how we award local contractors,” Arbuckle said. “Fundamentally, that is what this is about. Retaining local control.”
Grass Valley’s opposition to the bill was spelled out in a March letter: “We oppose this measure due to its undercutting of local charter authority,” wrote Grass Valley City Manager Dan Holler.
Nevada City, a general law city, would not be affected by SB7. Roseville has also opposed the legislation.
“Creating greater conflict between the state and local government is a disservice to those we represent,” Holler wrote.
The majority of Grass Valley’s projects use multiple funding sources, and to the extent other funds are used or a state-wide concern is addressed, prevailing wage is often utilized, Holler noted.
“The higher cost of a prevailing wage project reduces the number of projects that can be completed and diminishes the on-the-ground effectiveness as seen by our residents, as these local revenues are used for local projects,” Holler wrote.
Although Truckee’s elected officials have not crafted a formal opposition to the measure, poor road conditions prompted the town to adopt a charter in 1995 that allowed for local prevailing wages, Town Manager Tony Lashbrook told The Union in April.
“(SB 7) is really contrary to the charter the Truckee voters enacted almost 18 years ago,” he said.
When reached by phone Monday, Lashbrook said Truckee is keeping an eye on the bill’s progression.
“We’re monitoring it and looking for the most appropriate time to weigh in,” he said.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.
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