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By AP file photo
BY THEO DOUGLAS Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Officials in charter cities including Bakersfield and Shafter can add this to their list of least-liked legislation: Senate Bill 7, which withholds state funding from construction projects in cities that don't require contractors pay a higher, or "prevailing" wage.
Passed last week by the legislature, SB 7 is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk for a signature by Oct. 13. A spokesman for the bill's principal author, state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said there's no indication what Brown will do.
SB 7 amends state labor code to prohibit a charter city from receiving or using state funding or financial assistance on a construction project if it has a charter provision or ordinance authorizing contractors to not comply with prevailing wage provisions on any public works contract.
Bakersfield and Shafter have such provisions in their city codes, but representatives for both cities have said they encourage fair business practices.
In a letter to Brown last Tuesday -- the city's second opposition letter -- Mayor Harvey Hall accused the state of punishing Bakersfield "for prudently managing scarce resources."
Hall did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
A representative of the League of California Cities, an association of California city officials, said the group is very unhappy about the bill's passage.
"There's an inequity there that I think, as this settles in, I think it's going to make some people very angry," said Dan Carrigg, senior director of legislative affairs.
SB 7 would not apply to projects where a contract has been awarded or where state funding has been received before 2015, but proof of its potential impact appears in a city document comparing earthmoving and hauling wages.
In the wage schedule's most dramatic difference, backhoe operators not earning prevailing wage make $76 per hour; those paid prevailing wage make nearly 57 percent more, or $119 per hour.
In support, Steinberg's spokesman Rhys Williams cites a 2011 Colorado State University study that found that a public library project in Gilroy came in at $17 million, nearly 30 percent cheaper than a similar $24 million project in Palo Alto.
Gilroy paid prevailing wage, Palo Alto did not.
"We've seen nationwide, study after study, showing that prevailing wage saves tax dollars through higher productivity, better quality workmanship and faster rate of completion," Williams said.
In Shafter, however, Administrative Services Director James Zervis said the city would think twice about attempting future public works projects like the recent extension of water lines to Bishop Acres, which sits on county land and had a failing well.
Zervis said $350,000 in state funding paid for the project -- money that wouldn't be available if SB 7 is signed.
"It'll definitely impact the city of Shafter," Zervis said. "It just takes away our funding options for the future."