Assembly GOP Leaders Release Prevailing Wage Reform Plan

Assembly Republicans, led by Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington), Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna), Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), and Rep. Bob Kulp (R-Stratford) held a Capitol press conference today (June 29) to announce the details of a prevailing wage reform package (full bill draft).

The proposal would scale back the state’s prevailing wage laws and make a host of changes that include:

  • Eliminating the prevailing wage for projects by technical colleges or involving volunteers, donations and residential or agricultural construction.
  • Barring prevailing wage from being required on any projects costing less than $450,000 for  units of government other than technical colleges. Under current law, there are multiple thresholds for different sizes of projects and levels of government, including the thresholds of $48,000 for the state’s single-trade jobs and $100,000 for multiple-trade jobs that currently apply to school projects and others. The proposed $450,000 threshold would be indexed to climb upward in future years.
  • Simplifying how wages are calculated for projects subject to prevailing wage and exempting certain information collected as part of the prevailing wage system from the state’s open records law. Speaker Vos said including this provision was an attempt to thwart unions from using that data to argue that contractors and local governments may not be correctly complying with the prevailing wage law.

Under this proposal, school district projects above $450,000 would still fall under the prevailing wage unless some of the provisions relating to volunteers and/or donations apply.

Republicans who control both houses of the Legislature have been split over what to do on the prevailing wage law as they try to overcome a state budget impasse that also includes disagreements on how to pay for transportation projects and whether to provide public money for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena.

With the budget impasse now in its fifth week, Vos voiced frustration with his Senate colleagues, saying he would hold more news conferences this week to lay out the Assembly’s positions on other outstanding issues, saying “the Assembly is not going to just sit around and wait for the Senate to get its act together.”

Republicans hold a 19-14 majority in the state Senate, and can only lose two votes to still have enough to pass a budget. Vos said he didn’t think the Senate had 17 votes in support of any prevailing wage proposal.

The state budget is supposed to be completed by Wednesday July 1, when the new fiscal year starts, but lawmakers seem certain to miss that deadline. Funding will continue at current (2014-15) levels until lawmakers reach a deal on the new two-year budget.