CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — As promised, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed bills on Thursday to make West Virginia the 26th with a so-called right-to-work law and repeal its prevailing wage.
Those first two vetoes of the year will likely only be symbolic gestures.
Republican legislative leaders vowed to nullify the Democrat’s disapprovals in short order. Only a simple majority vote from both GOP-led chambers is necessary to override a veto.
Both bills face stark union opposition and passed on party lines, drawing some “no” votes from House Republicans. Another round of votes would be necessary to etch the bills into law.
In one veto message, Tomblin wrote that the so-called right-to-work law would produce little to no economic growth and could lower wages. He said the state should improve its workforce and create new development opportunities.
The bill prohibits companies from requiring workers to pay union dues. Unions are required to represent every worker.
“The issue of ‘right to work’ has been discussed for several years, but I have never had a company cite ‘right to work’ as a barrier to relocating in West Virginia,” Tomblin wrote. “We do not lack prospects.”
Tomblin’s veto message about repealing the prevailing wage for public construction projects says a compromise last year to retool the wage was “all for naught.”
Last year, Republicans backed away from repeal in favor of changing how the wage is calculated. Republicans thought the final product did very little to adjust the wages, which they believe are inflated. Tomblin’s administration considered the adjustments a fair middle ground.
In his veto message, Tomblin called the repeal bill an “about-face from our 81-year history of paying laborers, workers, and mechanics fairly for constructing public improvements.”
Senate President Bill Cole and House Speaker Tim Armstead, both Republicans, said the vetoes weren’t surprising, but were disappointing.
“It’s disheartening that the governor, who professes concern about the state’s budget, would reject bills designed to promote economic growth and rein in excess government spending,” Armstead said.