WI’s Mt. Rushmore of Prevailing Wage Reform

Repealing the prevailing wage law in Wisconsin has been a battle for republicans since the planning of the 2015-17 state budget, and in the last budget, was successfully repealed. Over the years, repealing prevailing wage was met with opposition from both sides, including figures like Speaker Robin Vos, who stripped State Representative Andre Jacque from his Assembly committee chairmanships after he held a hearing on the issue. In the last session Media Trackers covered eight pivotal people that helped partially repeal the prevailing wage law, and now offer the new “Mount Rushmore” of individuals who were key in fully repealing the law.

The prevailing wage laws according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation were, ” Laws enacted to discourage awarding public works contracts to low balling employers who underbid local employers by paying workers substantially less than normally received by workers in an area.” While it aimed at making sure the wages paid to construction workers were competitive with those surrounding an area, many argued that this law inflated the cost of public construction projects, and without it would saves taxpayers and the state money.

Media Trackers now recognizes Rep. Rob Hutton, Senator Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Sen. Duey Stroebel, and Governor Walker as major contributors in the successful effort to completely repeal the prevailing wage laws, with Rep. Andre Jacque receiving an honorable mention.

Representative Rob Hutton co-sponsored the full repeal bill that was introduced in April, and remained supportive and engaged about moving the bill forward throughout the whole process. He continually stressed how repealing prevailing wage would save taxpayers and the state money, such as in a usnews.com article:

Prevailing wage requirements increase the costs of building projects by 10 to 15 percent. A 2015 analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau said research on the impact of prevailing wage laws on construction costs is “mixed and inconclusive,” with findings ranging from small cost savings to insignificant differences.

Representative Andre Jacque was also crucial in the process of fully repealing the prevailing wage laws, even facing opposition from fellow republican Robin Voss, who stripped him of his Assembly committee chairmanship after he held a hearing on the matter. Media Trackers covered this back in 2016, where Jacque spoke the situation:

“He basically said that there needs to be an example set. My decision to hold the hearing on prevailing wage reform was something that he strongly disagreed with and that there needed to be a punishment. It’s not unexpected in terms of what came about. It’s something that, I understand from my colleagues, that he communicated to the rest of the conference. It has been communicated by the Speaker that if others were to act similarly to what I did this past session that your chairmanship would be removed immediately.”

Senator Scott Fitzgerald was also largely involved in repealing the prevailing wage laws, as he included the laws in the budget plan, and then forwarded the budget to the assembly. He was an avid supporter throughout the process, as seen in a press release:

“I am thrilled that the Senate has continued to lead on labor reforms in Wisconsin. From the passage of Right to Work to the repeal of the prevailing wage for local governments, we have taken great strides in encouraging open markets and removing government policies that artificially drive up costs. This measure removes one more barrier to competition and helps us guarantee that our taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently.”

Sen. Duey Stroebel called repealing prevailing wage his “first priority” after being elected senator, and continued to push even after the partial reform in the 2015-2017 budget. Stroebel was also one of the three senators who withheld their votes on the budget, until Governor Walker agreed to veto certain provisions. One of provisions was a partial veto that “implemented an immediate repeal of prevailing wage on state projects, as opposed to the September 1, 2018, effective date,” according to a press release from the three senators. This action of withholding their votes was also criticized heavily by Vos who likened them to “terrorists,” but has since apologized.

Governor Walker also was influential in repealing the prevailing wage laws, as it was included in the budget, and showed his support throughout the process. Walker voiced his belief that repealing the laws would strengthen competition in construction. While Walker was visiting Lemonweir Elementary School WEAU 13 news spoke with Walker on the subject:

“Anybody else, if you build a piece of infrastructure in this state you’re not obligated to provide a fixed price. You go out to compete and whoever can provide the highest quality at the most reasonable price is the one who wins that and we think that should apply to the taxpayers’ dollars.”

These individuals with the help and support of others have fully repealed the prevailing wage laws within the budget which will encourage competition within the construction industry, and save the state and taxpayers money in the future.