Senate Committee Holds Hearing On Repeal Of Prevailing Wage Law

Municipalities Argue Repeal Would Save Them Money At A Time When They're Strapped For Funding


The Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform held a hearing Tuesday on the proposed repeal of a state law that determines what construction workers are paid on public projects.

Some Republicans said that repealing the state’s prevailing wage law would save the state money. Representatives of municipalities at the hearing testified they could use the extra cash. Joshua Shoemann, Washington County’s administrator, urged lawmakers to repeal or change the 84-year old law, saying it would be a “tool” for local governments to save money.

“We’re supposed to take tax levy freezes and state aid cuts on an annual basis, and continue to provide services to our citizens — and then at the same time pay for additional costs we see in prevailing wage. You’ve got us both coming and going,” said Shoemann.

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But studies differ on whether repealing the law will actually save money. The Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance said it will, while the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau is not so sure.

Contractors, local governments and business groups were also at the hearing. Brian Mitchell of Choice Construction Companies, Inc. said that if the 84-year-old law is repealed, industry standards might suffer.

“If we don’t have prevailing wage, we’ll start this spiral to the bottom. Instead of competing with our smarts and agility on the job, (construction companies) will compete on who can pay the least,” said Mitchell.

Supporters of prevailing wage also say the law ensures construction projects are done well.

The Republican majority may not be able to muster the votes for an all-out repeal of prevailing wage, but a change of some kind is still possible.