In Wednesday’s blog, the subject of which was the legislation that would have enacted a moratorium on the court ordered reassessment in Washington County, we noted "The Governor should ask some of his constitutional experts about the advisability of signing this legislation".
Just this afternoon the Governor announced that the bill was too specific and limited and has vetoed the measure. The original intent of the legislation was to forestall all ongoing assessments until the Legislature came up with a solution for its assessment system. The churn of the legislative process produced a bill that applied only to "counties of the fourth class, with a population between 185,000 and 210,000 as of the 2010 United States Census" the only one being Washington County.
Having the Legislature attempt to circumvent court rulings would undoubtedly lead to a Constitutional crisis. The bill can be overridden, of course, but the best way to fix the assessment system is to enact changes to the laws governing it, not to step over the judiciary.
As the proverbial clock moved close to midnight on December 31st Pittsburgh City Council finalized a plan it believed would be sufficient to avoid a state takeover of the City’s underfunded pensions. Instead of a long term lease of assets that would have produced a lump sum of upfront cash for the pensions, the Council’s plan promises to dedicate thirty years of parking tax revenues along with what the City already pays in as its minimum obligation to the pension system.
On Monday, Pittsburgh City Council unanimously voted to adopt a prevailing wage law. One more vote from Council and the bill goes to the Mayor for a second time. The first time the united Council passed the bill it was vetoed by the Mayor on December 31st and Council was unable to gather enough votes to override it. Undeterred, they vowed to reintroduce the legislation and once again pass it unanimously-which they have just done.
Now it will be interesting to see the how the Mayor reacts.
He tried to play both sides of the fence by denouncing the prevailing wage bill as a killer of (subsidized) development, yet introduced his own competing prevailing wage bill, which Council summarily ignored. Now he needs to contemplate his next decision. He either vetoes the bill again, signs it or allows it to become law without his signature. If he vetoes, chances are high the veto will be overridden. Thus, barring a sudden and unexpected outbreak of sanity on Council, prevailing wage legislation is on the verge of becoming law.
It appears City is all but certain to be saddled with another market interfering mandate. A mandate that will prolong the City’s exit from distressed status.
In a moment of economic lucidity, Pittsburgh’s Mayor on December 31 vetoed the so called "prevailing wage" bill Council passed in the waning days of 2009. The late veto made it impossible for Council to put together the votes needed to overturn the veto.
The legislation, a last minute Christmas gift to labor unions, was passed on December 21. That opened the opportunity for the Mayor to veto the bill on the last day of the year. One wonders about the Council’s rush to pass the bill in the last few days with the very real threat of a last minute veto hanging over the process. Was all this carefully choreographed as a Council sop to the unions that was never meant to be put into effect? We will know if Council revives the bill in 2010 and overturns another veto.
The bottom line is the prevailing wage bill was terrible legislation and the Mayor’s reasons for vetoing it were extremely logical. It would have made Pittsburgh even less competitive for attracting companies and investment into the City by aggressively interfering in the market’s ability to set wages through supply and demand.
More devastating, it would have sent yet another signal to the local, national and global business communities that Pittsburgh is slipping deeper into an anti-free market, statist approach to public policy.
We can only hope this poorly thought out and insidious bill never sees the light of day again.