Wage inspections

As if local licensed contractors don't have enough to deal with these days -- staying in business through next month, for example -- the Clark County Commission on Tuesday added another layer of inspections at construction sites.

Only these inspectors aren't interested in safety or whether the work meets code. They want to see the books.

The county has received more than 90 complaints over the past two years about contractors not paying the state's prevailing wage on public works projects costing at least $100,000. Because the county has only one full-time compliance officer for such business, the commission created a paycheck police force of a dozen volunteers.

Problem is, there's nothing "prevailing" about Nevada's prevailing wage law. The figures set by the labor commissioner are based on contractor surveys. Because participation is not mandatory, many contractors don't provide numbers. As a result, the survey data are not entirely reliable.

Union shops, however, have an interest in responding to the survey. The higher the wages they report paying, the more workers end up making -- at the expense of taxpayers.

The commission included in their paycheck police guidelines a requirement that volunteers cannot engage in union activities at work sites. But contractors have good reason to be concerned with the board's action. Commissioners are going to have to keep a close eye on this one-year experiment. They're going to have a hard time selling this as anything but a favor to the unions who helped get them elected.

The Legislature could do contractors and taxpayers a favor by repealing the prevailing wage law, which artificially drives up government construction costs. That's the surest way to bring a stop to this kind of nonsense.