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EDITORIAL: Democrats want to make school construction more expensive

Rarely does one bill expose so much hypocrisy. That’s the only benefit of a legislative effort to increase the cost of school construction.

Legislative Democrats constantly talk about the importance of education. “In the last election, Nevadans, as well as teachers, spoke loud and clear that education needs to be our first priority,” Brittney Miller, a Democratic assemblywoman from Las Vegas who moonlights as a teacher, said Monday. “We have a new governor who also states that education needs to be a priority.”

The assemblywoman and her Democratic cohorts sure have a funny way of making it a “priority.”

In 2015, the Legislature allowed the Clark County School District to extend its bond program without voter approval. That gave the school district more than $4 billion to spend through 2025. Despite that influx of money, the district claims it needs another $6 billion by 2025.

Whatever the actual need, the district must stretch these taxpayer dollars as far as possible. But Assembly Bill 136, co-sponsored by every Assembly Democrat, would make school construction more expensive.

Currently, Nevada public schools must pay 90 percent of the prevailing wage on building projects. The prevailing wage is a mandate that workers on government jobs receive higher union wages. It’s a terrible idea with racist origins. The 1931 Davis-Bacon Act imposed prevailing wage requirements on federal projects. That was done explicitly to prevent non-unionized African-Americans from underbidding white workers who were unionized.

The free-market Nevada Policy Research Institute has found that Nevada’s prevailing wage rates are 45.8 percent higher than market rates. Evidence from the school district itself confirms that finding.

In 2015, the Legislature briefly repealed the prevailing wage requirement for school districts. During that time, the district sought bids for a project at K.O. Knudson Middle School. The lowest bid was $2.7 million. Before the district could award the contract, lawmakers imposed the 90 percent requirement. The district rebid the project; the lowest bid came in at $3.6 million. The district was forced to pay 33 percent more because politicians sought to give handouts to labor unions.

Now Assembly Democrats want to make school construction even more expensive. This is politics at its worst. Democrats are preparing to use their political power to steer public dollars to their political allies. In turn, those unions will make campaign contributions that will increase the political power of Democrats. Expect this cycle to repeat itself many times this session.

Democrats like to talk about the importance of children and education. But their actions reveal that increasing the power of their union cronies is their priority. Nowhere is that more embodied than in AB136.

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