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Law will boost pay for construction

Acting Gov. Codey signed legislation requiring a prevailing wage for work done on public property.

TRENTON - Contractors doing construction on public property will have to pay workers wages determined by the state under a bill signed into law yesterday by acting Gov. Richard J. Codey.

The bill was the first signed into law by Codey since he took over for Gov. Corzine, who is recovering from critical injuries suffered in an April 12 crash on the Garden State Parkway.

The law requires that construction workers on public land be paid prevailing wages, a figure determined by the state Labor Department. Those figures are based on the average salary paid to workers employed in the same job in the same region, and are higher than the state's $7.15-an-hour minimum wage.

Under the law, prevailing wages will be paid under any construction and renovation contract on property owned by any public body, including the state, even if the public property is leased to a private entity.

Thus, the law could cover work, for instance, at the Meadowlands Sports Complex, where the New York Giants and Jets are building a new stadium.

Bill Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, said local governments oppose the law. "This will bring increased costs," he said.

The law is backed by labor unions such as the AFL-CIO.

The law amends a state law that requires contractors to pay prevailing wages when they work on projects that receive government financing.

The bill was sparked by a 2003 dispute in Burlington County, when a company leasing public land refused to pay prevailing wages for private hospital renovations.

"We cannot abide such glaring loopholes which allow for private interests to make a profit off the backs of our state's skilled craftsmen and laborers," said Sen. Joseph Doria (D., Hudson), a bill sponsor.

It's not uncommon for acting governors to sign bills in New Jersey. The last two Assembly speakers, for instance, signed bills into law during brief stints as acting governor when the governor and Senate president were out of state.