Anti-Prevailing Wage Bill is Part of Lame Duck

December 4, 2018

A bill that would let the state avoid complying with federal wage laws for some highway projects was among a package of controversial lame-duck measures the GOP-controlled Senate and Assembly was set to consider Tuesday.

The bill, Assembly Bill 1069 and Senate Bill 883, would require the state Department of Transportation to channel federal transportation money into a smaller number of state road projects.

That would allow the state to avoid complying with federal prevailing wage requirements on those projects. However, those projects may also require more state funding or borrowing to pay for them, and the state could end up qualifying for less federal aid, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Prevailing wage laws generally dictate higher pay for the construction workers on public works projects. In 2015 and 2017, the GOP-controlled legislature eliminated state and local prevailing wage requirements.

At the time, both of those efforts drew support from business, construction, and rightwing ideological interests led by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest business group, and Americans for Prosperity, which was created and funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The effort to quash prevailing wage laws also reflects model legislation developed by a special interest bill mill called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is also funded by the Kochs.

Both WMC and Americans for Prosperity are routine election-time backers of Republicans and conservatives for legislative and statewide offices. Since January 2010, WMC has spent an estimated $25.2 million and Americans for Prosperity has spent more than $14.1 million on outside electioneering activities in Wisconsin.