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Stretching a bad law beyond logical limits

District of Columbia officials are ecstatic over the development of five blocks of downtown Washington into a complex that includes 458 apartments, 216 condominiums and almost as much office and retail space as Charleston's Town Center mall has.

This is a major private investment of $700 million in city dominated by federal buildings.

Leave it to the Obama administration to throw a monkey wrench into construction.

In 2009, the Carpenter's Union petitioned the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Labor Department to require the application of the antiquated Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 to the project. Davis-Bacon is a relic that requires federal projects to pay the highest wages possible.

The division initially ruled against the union, as Davis-Bacon has never been extended to  privatedevelopment.

Enter the Obama administration, which champions the labor unions cause out of party allegiance. Nancy Leppink, acting administrator of the division, a political appointment, overruled her nonpartisan staff.

The Wall Street Journal reported that because the project will supply jobs and tax benefits to the city, it is a "public" project. Leppink's ruling would cost developers an extra $20 million in labor costs.

This was too much even for D.C. liberals, the Wall Street Journal reported. District Attorney General Irvin Nathan sued in federal court to overrule her, as did the private developers.

Leppink's interpretation of Davis-Bacon as applying to any project that generates jobs and tax revenues would expand Davis-Bacon to any construction project in the country.

Such a decision should be in the hands of Congress not a political appointee who wants to reward the president's supporters.

Davis-Bacon already inflates the costs of government projects by $17 billion a year, the conservative Heritage Foundation estimates.

There's no telling how much Leppink's decision would cost the public if it stands.

 


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