Proposal at Illinois statehouse would publish salaries of private employees working on public projects

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(The Center Square) – Just how much transparency there should be when it comes to public works projects is an area of debate as lawmakers advance a measure requiring private contractors’ salaries to be public if they’re working on a taxpayer-funded project.

State Sen. Chris Belt, D-Centreville, said to better enforce prevailing wage his amendment to Senate Bill 1767 creates an electronic database for private sector contractors working on projects paid for by taxpayers to post salary information of their workers on those projects.

“It will provide greater transparency on government construction contracts and it will expedite enforcement of the [Prevailing Wage] Act,” Belt said.

Private employers on public works contracts already share such information with the state, but the information is only available through the Freedom of Information Act. Belt’s measure would have some of that data, excluding addresses and the last four digits of a social security number, publicly available through a searchable database online.

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said making such info public is one thing. But, he worries about the state’s ability to keep any personal information stored digitally secured.

“If you sat through the audit commission on the unemployment insurance division, I have no faith that the state of Illinois can protect anybody’s personally identifying information,” Rose said. “So this whole bill is actually giving me extreme pause on what the state of Illinois is currently holding.”

Several state agencies in the past few years have had security breaches where public information was accessed, including from the Illinois State Board of Elections, or improperly sent to the wrong address.

Sean Stott with Midwest Laborers said an amendment to Senate Bill 1767 was needed to provide transparency of salaries for private-sector employees working on public works projects.

“Are they public employees, no, are they working for a public body and being paid for in essence with public money, yes,” Stott said.

State Sen. Jason Plummer, R-Edwardsville, asked where the line is drawn, saying the logic of the measure would mean employees of a catering company would have to have their salaries made public if the state has a catered function paid for with tax dollars. He also said the measure could lead to contractors using the information to lower wages.

“When you have a small number of companies that typically bid on these projects, they’re going to be able to look at their competition, and they’ll be able to see how much they are paying their people and you are depressing the wages of certain individuals,” Plummer said.

Senate Bill 1767 passed out of committee and now heads to the full Senate. Lawmakers return to Springfield on Tuesday.

Politics

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April 19, 2021 at 02:12PM

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