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News of the Day - 7/7/15

GOP Senators to Make Run at Repealing Prevailing Wage Law

Republicans who control the state Senate plan to insert a provision into the state budget Tuesday that will repeal the prevailing wage law for local governments.

The law sets the minimum salaries for construction workers when they build roads, schools and other publicly funded projects.

Senate President Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) said leaders did not yet have the votes they needed but believed they could get them by Tuesday. The Senate is scheduled to start at 11 a.m.

"It's safe to say we're putting the finishing touches on how to get the votes," Lazich said Monday.

The proposal's fate in the Assembly also remains unclear. Republicans control the Assembly 63-36 and the Senate 19-14, but GOP lawmakers have been divided over the prevailing wage law.

"Assembly Republicans will caucus (Tuesday) and will discuss this new development," said a statement from Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester).

Republicans who control the Legislature have said for weeks they didn't have the votes to fully repeal the prevailing wage laws, which applies to all government units in Wisconsin, including the state, school districts, and municipalities.

But in recent days, conservatives have rallied behind a plan by Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) that would repeal the prevailing wage law for all local government projects, including those by municipalities, school districts and technical colleges.

The Lasee plan would also simplify the system at the state level by adopting prevailing wages for different construction professions as set by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In doing so, the proposal would eliminate the current system in which wages are calculated for those professions by the state Department of Workforce Development, saving $358,000 and cutting four jobs.

The proposal would keep in place the current cost thresholds for triggering the wage requirements on state work — $48,000 for projects involving workers in one trade and $100,000 for projects involving workers from multiple trades.

The changes are strongly opposed by unions and Democrats, who say it amounts to a pay cut for the working class. Republicans say they would save money for taxpayers.

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