Democrats, Veterans Continue Battling Possible Prevailing Wage Repeal

GOP Proposal Would Eliminate Prevailing Wage On State-Funded Construction


Democrats and veterans groups are continuing to fight a repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage laws.

The laws set minimum salary requirements for workers on government-funded construction projects. In 2015, GOP lawmakers repealed those requirements on local projects. This session, they’ve introduced a bill that would extend that to state-funded projects.

At a state Capitol press conference Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers argued the change would lower wages in a field that employs a proportion of veterans.

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Matt Bell, an Army veteran and owner of a contracting business in McFarland, said the repeal of prevailing wage would hurt his business.

“If you create a work environment that suppresses wages, drives people from a meaningful career in construction and encourages out of state construction companies to take Wisconsin jobs, you will drive people of out their jobs that they love and deny them the ability to provide for their families,” Bell said.

Opponents to the plan also cited a new study from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute that contends the repeal would cost taxpayers more, as lower wages would shift more people into state welfare programs.

Supporters say the repeal would reduce the cost of taxpayer-funded construction and even the playing field for union and non-union contractors.

“The prevailing wage benefits a very small number of mostly large corporations and mostly unionized employees,” said Eric Bott, state director for Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political group.

The bill has yet to receive a vote in committee.