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Imposing Partial Law: WI GOP Finally Settles on Severity of Prevailing Wage Cuts in New Budget

Sen. Frank Lasee, prevailing wage

Sen. Frank Lasee, prevailing wage “reformer”

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In a late-night vote this week, the Wisconsin state assembly sent a two-year, $72.7 billion budget to Gov. Scott Walker which partially repeals the prevailing wage but fails to fully repeal it as hardline conservatives desired.  Walker is expected to sign it swiftly so that he can announce his presidential candidacy on Monday with one extra piece of garbage under his belt.

As part of the budget, Senate Republicans passed the partial prevailing wage repeal which will affect only local government projects, including those done by school districts, municipalities, and technical colleges.  The partial repeal will not go into effect until January 2017.  The partial repeal also reinforces the current standard that local governments cannot make their own prevailing wage laws moving forward.  

The prevailing wage changes, sponsored by Senator Frank Lasee, also affects the way the prevailing wage is calculated. The responsibility is now shifted from the state Department of Workforce Development to the Department of Transportation for highway projects and the Department of Administration for all other projects.  

On Tuesday, the State Senate voted 17-16 on the prevailing wage amendment with Republican Sens. Howard Marklein and Rick Gudex bucking the party line in what was a near-win for building trades members.  The overall budget was passed by the House by a 52-46 moargin with 11 Republicans voting against it.  The delayed budget, which forced an extraordinary session of the legislature, was most contentious within the Republican party regarding the prevailing wage.  Republican Rep. Robert Brooks praised the budget, telling Business Insider:

“We didn’t always agree. Quite frankly, we disagreed a lot, but that made (the budget) a better product.  Now I can … go back to my constituents and say yes, it’s not a crap budget.”

Democrats, however, wholly disagree with Brooks.

“Republicans in the legislature have managed to turn what was a disaster of a budget into an all-out catastrophe,” Rep. Lisa Subeck said.

Democratic Sen. Dave Hansen also bashed the budget, saying the agenda it sets has failed “over and over again, and there’s no reason to believe this time it will be any different.”

What’s worse for construction workers, the budget set road funding at $850 million, far less than the $1.3 billion proposed by Walker himself.  The lack of funding will delay the completion of some road projects during the next two years and likely prevent a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, which could lead the NBA franchise to relocate.


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