Posted on 18 March 2010.
By Debi Brazzale, COLORADO NEWS AGENCY
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers wants to send a message to Congress and President Obama asking them to reconsider federal policy that has put a clamp on some current as well as some prospective water projects in Colorado.
The policy that Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, wants Congress to look at involves a requirement that federal stimulus dollars comply with the Davis-Bacon Act–a 1931 law that says prevailing wages must be paid for labor on most federally funded public works projects. Harvey said that the problem is not with Davis-Bacon but with the EPA’s interpretation–that the new rules apply retroactively to water projects, a move that some say was too swiftly applied.
“Regardless of how anyone feels about Davis-Bacon, there are some discussions that should have happened,” said Harvey. He said Senate Joint Resolution 18, which he presented today to the Senate Committee on Business, Labor and Technology, initiates that conversation.
Hundreds of water projects in Colorado are generally paid for by a revolving fund of federal and state dollars that is loaned out and repaid over time. Federal money in the revolving fund had not historically been subject to the provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act—until 2009, when Congress declared that the prevailing-wage provision would apply to all stimulus dollars spent, even retroactively.
SJR 18 states that the new interpretation, “will jeopardize or subject to costly renegotiation numerous existing contracts that have already been signed or are about to be signed …” for water projects around the state.
The problem, said Kevin Bommer of the Colorado Municipal League, who came to testify in support the resolution, is not about prevailing wages or about future projects, but about whether the new conditions Congress applies to stimulus money that is doled out for water projects should be applied retroactively to the projects that were already on the table but not yet funded.
“To say that this applies to projects that weren’t finalized was totally unfair for the folks who were in the middle of the process,” said Bommer. “We’re not asking for an up or down vote on Davis-Bacon…..what we’re asking for is fundamental fairness.”
Colorado has received about $34.4 million for clean drinking water projects and about $31.3 million for clean water projects in federal stimulus money. According to the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, the cost for meeting the Davis-Bacon requirements for metro area projects would increase 4 to 5 percent per project and 20 to 25 percent n rural areas.
The final committee vote on whether or not to move the resolution forward has been put on hold until next week.