Capitol Update

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Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform

This 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: http://dwd.wisconsin.gov/er/prevailing_wage_rate/publication_erd_8731_p.htm#1

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 this time.

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

This 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. (5/5/15)
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 program. (5/7/15)
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


Helpful Information

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 years.

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.

2014 Campsite Occupancy May 23 – Sept 2, 2014

State Park # of Sites % Occupied # of People
Peninsula State Park 165 92.74% 12,405
Copper Falls State Park 26 89.48% 2,276
Devils Lake State Park 154 99.12% 14,009
Governor Dodge 71 75.80% 6,613
Mirror Lake State Park 50 79.63% 4,312
Nelson Dewey State Park 21 48.04% 1,126
Wyalusing State Park 34 75.85% 1,052
Yellowstone Lake State Park 43 59.47% 3,696
Buckhorn 1 50.49% 81
Mill Bluff State Park 6 54.69% 406

*Source: Department of Natural Resources



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