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Lawmakers Debate Bill To Weaken ‘Living Wage’ Ordinances

Republican Author Says Measure Enhances Local Control

Photo Credit:  Photo Phiend

Critics of a proposal in the state Legislature weakening so-called “living wage” ordinances say it undermines local control, but the Republican author of the measure said it enhances local control because only those who support higher wages should pay.

Before a public hearing at the state Capitol on Monday, members of Wisconsin Jobs Now lined the hallway carrying copies of recent state laws that restrict local control — everything from landlord tenant relations to sick leave.

Milwaukee County supervisor David Bowen said he’s concerned the latest proposal will undercut efforts to have a living wage of $11.33 an hour centers in Milwaukee. Bowen said increased wages are spent, helping local business.

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“Instead of rolling back local ordinances, our time would be better spent raising wages for the lowest-paid worker so they can put money back into the economy and not be relying on government (programs),” he said.

At a state Senate committee hearing, state Rep. Nikiya Harris, D-Milwaukee, asked the bill’s author if this was “control of locals” rather than local control.

State Rep. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, responded that state tax dollars are going for local contracts that pay higher wages in communities which require them.

“The Boston Tea Party took place because there was taxation without representation, and what this bill does is it says if your municipality feels this is important, they can use local tax dollars to pay for that. We are not prohibiting that,” he said.

But Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said the bill would restrict living wages required in Madison and Dane County.

“You can’t separate out those dollars. Human services are funded by pass through dollars from federal, from state, from local levy,” Parisi said. “You can’t separate that out.”

The living wage bill affects contracts that are paid with state or federal money. It would impact a lot home health workers in the Family Care program.