A state Senate committee has voted against advancing a controversial proposal to undo Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law. The panel on Thursday morning rejected endorsing a bill that would fully repeal the law, along with an amendment that would have scaled back the impact of the legislation.
Both measures failed on 2-3 votes, with Republican Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) joining Democrats on the panel in voting them down. Marklein has previously said he opposes a full repeal of the prevailing wage law, which requires that workers involved in government projects be paid a set wage that’s determined by the state.
State Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), the chair of the committee, remained optimistic action could still be taken by the full Senate. Nass stressed that the proposal can still go to the floor and be modified at a future time, despite the lack of a committee recommendation. The Whitewater Republican admitted that a “full repeal may be in doubt,” but he believes his amendment offers a fair compromise that Republicans in the Senate can go along with. “I’m optimistic there will be something. Whatever it is cannot be weak,” Nass said.
Nass’ amendment would still repeal the prevailing wage requirement for local government projects, while keeping it in place for work on state projects. Instead, it would significantly increase the threshold for when workers’ wages must be set using the requirement.
Democrats on the panel were critical of the proposal, which received a lengthy public hearing at the Capitol earlier this week. State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) argued it would “deplete the middle class” and put Wisconsin down a path of having “low-skill, low-wage jobs.”
Republican leaders in both chambers have indicated they do not have the votes needed to pass a full repeal of the prevailing wage law.