GOP Lawmakers Look To Override Local Living Wage, School Ordinances

Wisconsin capitol building with snowman
Photo: Michael Leland (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Assembly Republicans are poised to pass bills later Thursday that would overturn local government decisions in Milwaukee in what Democrats are calling another GOP assault on local control.

One of the bills would undercut the living wage ordinance just passed by the Milwaukee County board. The ordinance would require private contractors that win county work to pay workers at least $11.32 an hour. The GOP plan would let that ordinance stand, but counties would be banned from using state or federal dollars to pay these wages. State Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), says that’s because Republicans think wage ordinances like these are harmful.

“This artificial inflation of wages has proven to actually decrease employment opportunities in a municipality,” Kapenga said. “We feel as Republicans that we should be promoting a policy of lower taxes that will get more jobs to a community.”

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The GOP plan upsets Democrats who represent Milwaukee, including state Rep. Mandela Barnes.

“To see the majority party … step on the neck of any local government entity is a shame,” Barnes said.

Barnes says the Milwaukee County board passed this living wage ordinance to help lift people out of poverty. Barnes says it’s a decision county government should have the chance to make for itself. “People are elected in these bodies. These aren’t non-elected bodies making these decisions. These are people who are accountable to a constituency.”

Another bill on today’s calendar would override a decision by the Milwaukee Public School System. It would force MPS to sell vacant school buildings, the idea being that this would save taxpayers money and open up valuable real estate to voucher schools that are asking for it. The school district says that because of the way the bill is worded, it could potentially evict thousands of public school students.