DIXON – Governing bodies around Illinois annually approve prevailing wage resolutions. Usually, they do so unanimously, without a second thought.
Not so with the Lee County Board on Tuesday.
In Illinois, government agencies are required to pay the prevailing wage rates in public works projects, even those handled by contractors. Many detractors see such rates as following the union scale.
At Tuesday's board meeting, member David Gusse, R-Dixon, who rejoined the board in 2010 after being away for decades, said he would ask the "same damn question" as he did back then about the prevailing wage rule: "Why are we doing this to ourselves?"
"The prevailing wage is a crock," Gusse told the board. "It is a taxpayer subsidy to labor. Nothing more, nothing less. I'm asking for a roll-call vote on this thing."
Officials said state funding for public works projects would be in jeopardy if the county failed to pass the ordinance.
Board Vice Chairman John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove, said the prevailing wage reflects union pay.
"Where would that prevailing wage come from if it's not the union scale?" he asked. "This has always stuck in my craw."
The board voted 18-4 for the ordinance, with Vern Gottel, R-rural Sterling, absent, and Ryan Marshall of Dixon, who swore in Tuesday, abstaining.
The dissenters were Gusse; Nicholson; Gerald Leffelman, R-Sublette; and Dick Binder, R-Compton. Gusse, Nicholson and Leffelman voted against last year's ordinance; Binder supported it.