State lawmakers are considering a proposal that would allow some public projects with private funding to cut labor costs.
The bill from state Representative Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) would exempt public works projects from the prevailing wage law if at least 85-percent of the cost is being covered by private funding. The project would have to be something for public use that’s focused on conservation, recreational, or educational purposes.
Marklein says the need for the exemption became clear after a group tried to replace a shelter at Blue Mounds State Park. Despite raising more than $400,000, the project fell short of the needed funding because the organization had not raised enough to pay the prevailing wage. Marklein says government should be encouraging private investment in projects that benefit the public.
Union groups are concerned the bill could drive down wages on numerous construction jobs. For example, Thomas Gasperetti with the Wisconsin Pipe Trades says many UW projects rely heavily on private funding and he says the bill creates a “problematic loophole.”
The bill is currently awaiting action from a Senate committee.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:05)