Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. Mr. Chairman, I reserve a point of order on the gentleman's amendment.
The Acting CHAIR. A point of order is reserved.
Pursuant to the order of the House of today, the gentleman from California (Mr. Rohrabacher) and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California.
Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of my amendment to H.R. 2354 that seeks to defund title 40, U.S.C. section 31, up to $20 million instead of the current $2,000 threshold.
Right now we are in serious and prolonged economic recession. The construction industry has been hit the hardest throughout the United States. My amendment defunds the Davis-Bacon Act up to a certain amount in order to allow small business and small contractors the ability to compete on the smaller government contracts.
This amendment will assist the small businesses that do not have the resources to compete for the larger contracts that compel compliance with all the requirements of Davis-Bacon. That is why this amendment defunds contract applications for smaller contracts under the $20 million threshold, but the larger projects are still subject to the Davis-Bacon Act. This is a temporary measure for the duration of the fiscal year in direct response to the recession.
Now, on average, research establishes that Federal public projects that are forced to operate under this law spend 22 percent more than projects not bound by this law. By eliminating the onerous cost for small projects, there will actually be more work, up to 22 percent more work, for the same dollar and the smaller contractors will be able to compete for jobs that otherwise are out of their reach.
Yet this agreement preserves the application of the act to the larger projects, so that those big projects across the U.S., where larger contracts typically get the contracts in any event, these companies can more readily comply with the provisions of the act and have deeper pockets to handle the administrative and other requirements mandated by the act.
We also know that one study concluded that the Davis-Bacon Act will waste $10.9 billion in 2011. We also know that the Government Accountability Office states that this act is extremely difficult to administer, and the GAO has advocated for its repeal as [Page: H5056]
far back as 1979. To a certain degree, this amendment seeks to reduce that waste, but the most important aspect of this amendment is encouraging small business participation in these government building
I have stated before that we, as Members of Congress, we are stewards of the public Treasury. We have an obligation to spend taxpayer money wisely. The government does not earn money. The government does not generate wealth. We have an obligation to spend this money wisely, and we have an obligation to help the businesses of the country, and those that build our infrastructure need our help. This amendment addresses that need.
The Heritage Foundation suggests that for every billion dollars, Federal construction spending supports 14,000 workers. Then the savings from the suspension of the Davis-Bacon law for 1 year would support 163,000 new construction jobs.
My amendment addresses this very issue and seeks to boost employment and work for small businesses and small contractors who can compete for smaller government contracts temporarily if the Davis-Bacon requirements are defunded for 1 year.
I ask that you support this amendment, support small businesses, more efficient spending of our taxpayer money, spreading our limited resources and keeping more American construction workers in a job, a livelihood, and a mission to rebuild this America together.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. VISCLOSKY. Mr. Chairman, Davis-Bacon is a fairly simple concept, and it is a very fair one.
What it does is to protect the government and the taxpayers, as well as the workers, in carrying out the policy of paying a decent wage on government contracts.
The Davis-Bacon Act requires that workers on federally funded construction projects be paid no less than the wages paid in the community for similar work. The fact is that opponents claim Davis-Bacon requires union wage jobs. However, more than 75 percent of Davis-Bacon wage determinations are not based solely on union wages.
The quality of work on energy and water projects, for example, is crucial to the communities depending on them, and we do need individuals who are trained, who are more efficient, and who are going to do the job right the first time. One of the things that tends not to be noted when we have a discussion and debate about Davis-Bacon is the money it saves to the taxpayers that are hidden costs by those who do not use union labor and do not pay union scale wages.
By including fringe benefits in wage calculations, the Davis-Bacon act delivers health care and pensions for workers on Federal projects, ensuring that they aren't part of the many uninsured Americans who rely on Medicaid and cost the American taxpayers. The Department of Labor survey methods also incorporate hourly investments in training and apprenticeship, where appropriate, to ensure the skilled, productive, future workforce.
I would also point out that in the past the House has taken two votes on this issue, the first vote taken included a limitation on Davis-Bacon and was considered in H.R. 1, and it failed by a vote of 189-233. The second vote was a limitation taken during consideration of the FAA bill, and it failed 183-238.
But, most importantly, and the gentleman indicated that he is spurred on to action here because of the recession, is because of the money involved relative to those who work in the United States of America. Since 1977, we have fortunately had great growth in this general economy.
But I would point out to all of the Members that according to the Department of Labor in 1977, the real hourly wage that a human being in the United States of America earned for 1 hour's worth of labor was $19.57. In 2010 the Department of Labor reported that a human being in the United States of America for their human labor for 1 hour now earns $19.04.
People today, for an hour's worth of work, make less than they did in 1977, despite the growth of our economy. The last thing we need to do here today is to put more downward pressure on the ability of an American citizen to work at a good-paying job that guarantees them a decent living, and I strongly oppose the gentleman's amendment.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN. I rise in support of the gentleman's amendment.
The recommendation I brought to the full committee prohibited Davis-Bacon provisions on any sort of construction, roads, bridges, dams, and buildings, because the taxpayers, as a result, pay more.
Unfortunately, this provision was stricken, impacting right to work States and, quite honestly, shortchanging them.
You do the math. There have been plenty of studies. Davis-Bacon provisions inflate costs for construction projects as much as, in some cases, 22 percent. These added expenses come at a time when we are really close to being broke as a nation. How many more jobs, union or nonunion jobs, could we provide to put America back to work by supporting this amendment? Plenty more, and thus I am pleased to support the amendment.
I urge my colleagues to do likewise.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. GOSAR. Mr. Chairman, at a national unemployment rate of 9.3 percent, this is a jobs amendment. Davis-Bacon does not protect the Federal Government nor the taxpayer. It only increases the cost to the taxpayer and the Federal Government by 22 percent. There are no studies that show that there is any difference in outcomes. As a contractor and working in contracts, we're held to the same standards. This is a temporary measure meant to help all our small companies and business contractors. It's
also an investment into increasing the number of build-outs of our vital infrastructure projects.
I urge my companions on the other side of the aisle to join in this and look at this fairly and increase the access to this funding, properly and fairly, to make sure that we get more people to work and get this vital infrastructure back and get America back to work.
I yield back the balance of my time.