The chief attorney for the Associated Builders and Contractors says the Obama administration’s handling of a key labor law has kept the economy from growing.

In a hearing yesterday before a U.S. House subcommittee, Maurice Baskin, general counsel for the association said the Labor Department’s administration of the Davis-Bacon Act has “hindered economic growth, increased the federal deficit and imposed an enormous paperwork burden on both contractors and the federal government.”

The 80-year-old act mandates wages on federal construction projects reflect the “prevailing” pay of construction companies in the local area. The ABC and other critics of the law say it typically mandates the payment of union scale, regardless of whether union companies work on the project, and makes construction more expensive.

“The department continues to use antiquated and outmoded wage and survey methods that guarantee inflated and erroneous wage determinations all over the country, inflating the cost of federal construction to taxpayers,” Baskin said. “First, the department continues to rely on wage surveys containing unacceptably low response rates instead of using sound statistical samples already made available through other government data collections. The department also has, in recent years, violated its own rules by importing wage rates from labor markets hundreds of miles apart. The resulting wage determinations bear little relation to actual local wages in the areas surveyed.

“ABC and others have repeatedly called on DOL to explore using alternative data to determine wage rates – such as data collected through the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics program,” Baskin said. “DOL has refused to make this correction to the wage survey process, and has not provided any rational explanation.”