Indiana’s Experience With Wage Repeal: The Rest of the Story

Opponents of a full repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law for public construction projects recently have been pointing to video of a Republican Indiana state lawmaker claiming repeal of a similar law there did not save money on public projects. Indiana State Representative Ed Soliday, House Assistant Majority Leader, at an event in Milwaukee last month, claimed that the 2015 repeal of the state’s common construction wage “hasn’t saved a penny.” Prevailing wage opponents in Wisconsin have attempted to turn the Republican Soliday into a liberal folk hero:

The liberal group One Wisconsin Now has also trumpeted Soliday’s claim. What the video doesn’t do is answer two questions: how would Soliday know if there have been savings and is he right when he says there haven’t been? J.R. Gaylor, President of the Indiana-Kentucky chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), says he knows of no data to which Gaylor could be referring to make such a claim. With the repeal less than two years old(signed into law in July, 2015), Gaylor says it’s just too soon to make a definitive statement on impact:

“There have been no concrete studies. I’m pretty confident that there is nothing out there that is objective on the study of impact since Indiana repealed it’s common wage or prevailing wage. In our repeal, it did have language that in 2020 there had to be a study of this whole thing by the Indiana Department of Labor. That’ll probably be the first objective study by the state that will happen.”

Despite any studies on the repeal’s impact, Gaylor says there is some obvious evidence to suggest it has saved money:

“First evidence of savings has been in the ending of the bureaucratic processes going into the wage hearings. Indiana’s process was very cumbersome;it required  a wage determination meeting for every project in every county. That involved a lot of time, a lot of layers, a lot of expense by the city and county, to get a wage committee together, have a meeting, let alone if it was challenged, lawyers were always part of the process.

 

So that is all gone. It was very proscriptive about what time the meetings had to be, etc. 99% of the entities in Indiana;  state and local,  have saved a lot of money just by taking away that bureaucratic mess. Without any formal study, we can’t capture really, specific, or even a big picture guess on actual savings.”

Soliday also claimed in the video that “Probably the people most upset with us repealing common wage were the locals. Because the locals, quite frankly, like to pay local contractors and they like local contractors to go to the dentist in their own town.” Gaylor has no idea to what Soliday is referring when he says “the locals are upset:”

“There has been no attempt to go back to the old system at all. There has been no call for that. I would assume that’s a really good sign that things are really working well, that people are saving money.

 

From the ABC side there are a lot more bidders on projects, a lot more competition. That’s usually a good sign too: competition in the market place. All the surrounding indicators we had on cost savings are coming true, but there’s not enough of a study out there to prove it one way or another at this point.”

Gaylor says there is also no evidence to suggest any of the gloom and doom scenarios opponents painted during the repeal debate have come to pass:

“Wages are going to crash, buildings are going to be shoddy, there is going to be a bunch of illegal, out of state contractors. None of that has happened at all. Wages have not declined. We’ve not even one horror story or accusation from the other side about any of those happening.nI don’t think he (Soliday) could point or pull a rabbit out of his hat as an example of any of those.”

As for repeal opponents in Wisconsin gleeful of a Republican speaking against it, Gaylor  says a little backstory on Indiana geopolitics can explain that. “Soliday represents  an area known as “the region,” 4 or 5 counties in Northwest Indiana, very labor friendly, strongholds of unions for a long time. Lawmakers from that area tend to have a pro-labor bias regardless of party.”

Meanwhile, Soliday made headlines in Indiana earlier this year when he insulted a successful entrepreneur:

Don Brown founded two highly successful Indiana companies. He has four college degrees. And he recently donated $30 million to the Indiana University School of Medicine — the largest gift the school has ever received from an alumnus.

 

But Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, didn’t seem very impressed by any of that on Thursday when Brown criticized legislation that threatened to effectively kick electric car maker Tesla out of Indiana.

 

“HB 1592 is nothing but an idiotic sop to the dealership association. Move into the 21st century. This stupid bill is bad for IN,” Brown said in a Tweet as Soliday’s committee took up his measure.

Soliday deleted his Twitter and Facebook accounts after the exchange and expressed regret for it. He then suffered the ignominy of having someone hijack his deleted Twitter account.

 

Soliday found out that someone grabbed his Twitter account and was impersonating him. He has since learned that closed accounts can be started back up by someone else within 30 days.

 

Soliday asked Twitter to shut it down since it wasn’t him but the social media site said as long as the person using his moniker says it’s a parody, there’s nothing they can do.

 

Faux-Soliday has tweeted that the real Soliday could have his account back if he issues a personal apology to Brown, and also has noted that he or she is not the real Soliday.

Gaylor described Soliday as someone with “lots of ego who likes the spotlight.” Consequently, he wasn’t surprised to see Soliday playing the role as a Republican celebrity for Wisconsin liberals.