Biden’s Regulatory Wish List Will Make Infrastructure Projects More Expensive

Friday saw President Joe Biden release the Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. This report was compiled by OMB’s regulatory affairs branch. This biannual report is a list of regulatory tasks that details all the proposed changes to regulations by various agencies and departments. Introduction to the report outlines several areas that administration is looking for significant improvements, including COVID-19 Protection, Climate Change Abatement and Mental Health and Substance abuse Treatment.

The report contains many non-specific rules. The report includes one that “proposes to update and modify the regulations implementing Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, to improve their utility in today’s economy and provide more clarity.” Davis-Bacon Act was a 1931 law that required workers who work on federally funded projects worth more than $2,000 to receive the “prevailing wage”. This is the equivalent of the local union wage. The conservative Heritage Foundation estimates that Davis-Bacon inflated construction costs annually by almost $11 billion in 2011.

The Biden administration would do a great job of “modernizing” the Davis-Bacon Act. This means that workers can compete in federal construction jobs where wages aren’t pre-emptively fixed, regardless how experienced they may be. All opportunities to lower costs will be apparent winners after the passage of an infrastructure bill that was much smaller than what was originally proposed. Biden’s past rhetoric regarding the law seems discourageing, despite its lack of detail.

Biden’s website stated that Vice President Biden was responsible for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. “Biden enforced the Davis-Bacon Act and Service Contract Act standards, which required that construction workers and other service workers be paid the prevailing wage on all ARRA-funded projects.” Biden is determined to continue this legacy as President by making sure that federal funding for infrastructure, transportation and service projects or jobs are protected by the prevailing wage.

Biden’s Executive Order on Tackling Climate Crisis At Home and Abroad, signed one week after taking office, stated that all agencies must, “consistent with applicable laws, apply and enforce Davis-Bacon Act as well as prevailing wages and benefit requirements.” And in his February remarks to labor leaders regarding his plans for a future infrastructure spending bill, Biden indicated that he expected the legislation to create “jobs—good-paying jobs, Davis-Bacon and prevailing wage jobs.”

It is clear from Biden’s comments on the topic that none of his “updates” to the Davis-Bacon Act would make the law. Simpler To hire contractors at market prices.