Assembly Considers Denying State Money For Local ‘Living Wage’ Rules

Municipalities Requiring Higher Wages For Contractors Would Have To Fund Them

Wisconsin capitol in Madison
Wisconsin Capitol, in Madison. Photo: Perwira Saputra (CC-BY-NC)

A bill aimed at weakening living wage ordinances in Wisconsin is set for a hearing Wednesday at the state Capitol.

The Milwaukee County Board has just passed a measure that would require all county contractors to pay their workers a wage of $11.32 per hour. The measure may withstand a possible veto.

The cities of Milwaukee and Madison and Dane County already have what are called “living wage” ordinances, but state legislation introduced Tuesday by two suburban Milwaukee Republicans would tighten the purse strings.

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Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, says the local governments would have to fund the ordinances with local tax dollars.

“They will not be able to take state dollars to fund any wages,” he said. “If the contract utilizes state dollars, they cannot have that wage ordinance in place.”

Kapenga says the measure was being amended late Tuesday, but is still headed for a public hearing in Madison this morning.

Planning to testify against the bill is Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen, a key sponsor of the county living wage plan. Bowen says the state bill is an overreach: “Over the power of local municipalities who know what’s best for their own jurisdictions,” Bowen said. “This is an attack on the working poor as much it is on local control.”

Bowen says if people helped by living wage ordinances lose that assistance, they’ll have to turn to other forms of public aid. The Republican bill would also block local governments from having residency requirements on public works projects.