Wisconsin

Details of Sen. Lasee’s Partial Repeal of Prevailing Wage

Policy

The prevailing wage repeal debate is now focusing on a plan floated by state Sen. Frank Lasee (R). At a Wednesday morning press conference, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and members of their respective leadership teams announced a tentative – and fairly open ended – agreement to complete the state budget. Part of the plan involves removing any prevailing wage repeal language from the state budget and placing a reform or repeal plan up for vote first in the Assembly, and then in the Senate.

Sen. Lasee’s plan, according to a document from his office, would repeal the prevailing wage mandate at the local level but keep it for state construction projects. Counties, municipalities and townships would no longer face the inflated cost to taxpayers associated with the prevailing wage mandate. State government, on the other hand, would continue to pay the inflated cost as part of the compromise. State projects that fall below the current thresholds of $48,000 for single-trade projects and $100,000 for multi-trade projects would still be exempt from the prevailing wage requirement.

For business owners, the Lasee plan is good news because it gets rid of the complex and burdensome 16-page Department of Workforce Development wage survey that the agency uses to gather the raw data it uses to calculate prevailing wage rates. Filling out the survey is mandatory for businesses in the construction trades, but the survey’s complexity – and the fact that half of them get thrown out by DWD because of the formula – eliminate almost any incentive some businesses have to complete them.

Because the majority of state construction projects will still be subject to the prevailing wage, there is still a need to have wage rates, but the Lasee plan changes how those rates are calculated. In a broad stroke, the plan eliminates the DWD’s full-time staff that gather wage data and calculate rates, and replaces the state wage structure with a simple reference to the wage data already calculated by the federal government for Davis-Bacon purposes.

Davis-Bacon is the federal law that requires federally funded construction projects to pay a sort of super-minimum wage calculated with a federal formula.

For now, the Lasee plan effectively replaces the so-called Vos compromise plan, unveiled by the Speaker on Monday, as the center of legislative debate over the prevailing wage issue. Because the plan fully repeals the prevailing wage for local government, it has generated support from conservatives who have championed a complete repeal of the antiquated mandate.

Sen. Duey Stroebel (R), who has pushed for full repeal, has said that he will support a compromise plan as long as it completely repeals the mandate for local government. Stroebel’s office told Media Trackers on Wednesday that the senator will not vote for the state budget until the Lasee plan as written passes both chambers of the legislature and is sent to the governor. Gov. Walker has previously said he will sign a full repeal of prevailing wage.

Speaker Vos said at the Wednesday press conference that it is his intention to bring Rep. Rob Hutton’s (R) bill completely repealing the prevailing wage to the Assembly floor, allow it to be amended with the Lasee plan’s language, and then pass it so it can go to the Senate for consideration.

Here is the Lasee office’s document outlining the Senator’s proposal: Prevailing Wage – Reform Package

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