Senate committee hears testimony on prevailing wage repeal

The authors of Assembly and Senate bills that would repeal prevailing wage in the state defended their proposal under grilling from Dems.

Prevailing wages, which are based on surveys of companies, apply to most public works projects and are minimum rates of compensation for workers in individual trades in specific counties. The DWD sets those rates.

Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, and Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, have said those rates are artificially inflated and cost local and state governments millions more than is necessary. They said their bills would solve that problem by eliminating what they both called an “archaic” law.

Vukmir said the state should not ask local governments to do more with less while also forcing them to pay such high rates on construction projects.

“Prevailing wage is an enormously unfunded mandate from state government,” she said.

But Dems on the Labor and Government Reform Committee took exception. Sens. Bob Wirch, of Kenosha, and Chris Larson, of Milwaukee, argued that nothing is broken, and no fix is necessary.

Larson referenced an LFB report from March that found mixed and inconclusive results regarding whether prevailing wages add costs to construction projects.

“Why are we pulling this out by the roots and trying to do something different?” Larson said.

Follow today’s hearing in the Quorum Call blog