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Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform
past week the Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform
scheduled a public hearing and executive session to discuss full
repeal of the prevailing wage law. As a member of this
committee, I voted against full repeal.
The prevailing wage law mandates that most workers employed on
public works projects must receive wages which are
representative of the wages normally paid to workers on similar
private projects in an area. Employers are required to base
their bids on prudent planning, good management and supervision
and the skill and efficiency of their workers and not solely on
the wages paid to their workers.
Most projects must exceed a specified dollar threshold to be
covered by these laws. Thresholds are established for single
trade and multiple-trade projects based on annual surveys to
establish rates. For more information about the law, please
visit the Department of Workforce Development’s (DWD) website:
I continue to believe that we can reform and improve the
prevailing wage law. We have heard from contractors and other
businesses that the law is too complex and requires reform.
Others believe that there could be significant savings on
projects if we weren’t forced to pay prevailing wage.
In response to both sides of the issue, I have been working with
stakeholder groups for the past few months learning about the
complexities of the law and how we can make changes that will
simplify, clarify, and reform prevailing wage. I am committed to
continue working with all stakeholders on finding a compromise
on this issue.
While some members of my political party see complete repeal of
prevailing wage as the solution, I have been working hard to
reform the law to make it work better in rural areas without
dismantling the entire program and negatively impacting
middle-class workers and local economies. The problems aren’t in
cities like Madison and Milwaukee where there is wage
competition. The issues and savings could be realized in rural
communities like Fennimore and Darlington. The reforms we are
working on would improve the way the law is applied statewide
and particularly in our more rural areas.
In addition, I have concerns about the adverse impact an
immediate repeal would have on our construction industry, which
is a major part of the economy of the 17th Senate District. I
also am not fully convinced that projected cost savings would
fully materialize to taxpayers. We have seen conflicting studies
on the savings full repeal would produce for taxpayers. The
Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), along with multiple state
agencies, have expressed that a fiscal impact on savings to the
state and local units of government would be indeterminate at
In speaking with several local contractors, it is my
understanding that they are actively hiring employees and the
differential between their usual hire rate and the prevailing
wage is not significant. Construction workers and skilled trades
are in demand. This data tells me that the data being used to
support full repeal may not tell the whole story.
In the past several months, I have heard from constituents
across the 17th Senate District on all sides of the prevailing
wage issue. I have also been working with my colleagues,
stakeholders and others to find a path forward that will be a
fair and responsible compromise to make the law work better for
our state, especially in our rural areas. After considering this
input and continuing to work on the issue, I did not vote to
support a full repeal of the prevailing wage law.
Joint Finance Committee
week, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) met on Tuesday, May 5
and Thursday, May 7. While the new state revenue numbers given
to us this week were disappointing, my colleagues and I continue
to seek ways to save funds and apply them to priorities. The
last several weeks, we have worked on low-hanging fruit – all of
the things we could do without a clear picture of projected
revenue – but now that we know where our numbers are, we will be
more aggressively seeking ways to improve the funding for
priority areas like education, and reduce spending in others.
To date, the JFC has reduced all funds by $32.5 million, reduced
general purpose revenue (GPR) spending by $29 million, and
reduced the number of FTE positions by 33.
This week, the following actions were taken:
Wisconsin Well Woman program - added $100,000 to the
Wisconsin Well Woman Program which provides breast and
cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic services to women
aged 45 to 64 with little or no health care coverage. The
program is available in all 72 counties and 11 tribes and
reached 5,799 women in 2014. (5/5/15)
• Rural Emergency Medical Education – provide a
$40,000 grant for advanced life support training to doctors,
physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, registered
nurses and paramedics who work in rural hospitals and
clinics. In the past, this funding was given to the
Comprehensive Advance Life Support (CALS) Rural Emergency
Medical Education organization. (5/5/15)
• Wisconsin Fund for Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment
System (POWTS) Grants – restored the Wisconsin Fund
which provides grants to low-income residents for part of
the costs of repairing and replacing failing septic systems.
• Sexual Assault Victims Servicing Funding (SAVS) –
added $100,000 GPR to the Department of Justice in 2016-17
for grants under the sexual assault victims servicing grant
• Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department – added a
grant for $50,000 per year to enable the Lafayette County
Sheriff’s Department to hire an officer dedicated to drug
law enforcement. (5/7/15)
• Law Enforcement Officer-Involved Death Investigations
– added $630,000 for 4 positions over the biennium to
conduct office involved incidents. (5/7/15)
• State Park Solvency – I authored a motion for the
state parks account that would improve the financial
condition of the state park system. We also required the DNR
to study ways for the state parks to increase revenue and
manage resources for continued sustainability. (5/7/15)
In the District
New Lisbon Elementary Visits the Capitol!
On Monday, I was able to meet with students from New Lisbon
Elementary before they began their capitol tour! I hope you
enjoyed your visit!
Myself, students, teachers, and parents from
New Lisbon Elementary
DNR Parks- Occupancy Rates
With summer fast approaching, a number of you are probably
thinking about taking a long weekend or an extended amount of
time away to some of our beautiful state parks.
This week in the Joint Finance Committee Executive session, I
authored a motion for the state parks account. The state parks
account has been in a declining financial position and the
motion that I authored will improve the financial condition of
our treasured state parks. With this motion the state parks
account will improve by millions of dollars over the next two
I recently came across some data that I thought would be helpful
and of interest to you as you plan your summer vacations to the
various state parks. The following table shows the number of
sites, percent occupied, and the number of people in the
selected state parks.
Occupancy May 23 – Sept 2, 2014
||# of Sites
||# of People
|Peninsula State Park
|Copper Falls State
|Devils Lake State Park
|Mirror Lake State Park
|Nelson Dewey State
|Wyalusing State Park
|Yellowstone Lake State
|Mill Bluff State Park
*Source: Department of Natural Resources
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