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Committee hears testimony on prevailing wage repeal

Lawmakers are debating whether or not to repeal the state's prevailing wage laws. It's a set of laws that sets hourly pay for construction workers on public projects.

\"We believe Wisconsin's system of determining prevailing wages is fundamentally flawed, is anti-competitive and results in higher construction costs for taxpayers.\" said John Mielke, President of the

Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin.

Prevailing wage laws have been around in Wisconsin for more than 80 years. Some contractors, the Elmbrook School District, and Republican legislators are among those testifying these laws are wrong for Wisconsin. Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatoa) said, \"Without a doubt prevailing wage laws are negatively having an impact on local units of government and the taxpayers who support them.\"

Opponents say prevailing wage laws unfairly drive up public construction project costs by mandating a minimum hourly pay rate.

James Hoffman runs a Hoffman Construction Company and says repealing the law would only do one thing, hit his employees' paychecks. \"So there would be a downward spiral and it would really come out of the backs of the middle class workers that we employ and are very proud of.\" he said.

People supporting current law say it ensures well trained people are contracted for major public projects like bridges and roads. They also say it ensures Wisconsin businesses can't be undercut by out of state companies.

Milwaukee representative Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) says she doesn't understand why this bill should be repealed.

\"If you ask me, they're trying to repeal the entire 20th century. You know this is a law that has worked …great. Not only for you know the state of Wisconsin, but for the construction workers, the contractors. Nobody wants to see this repealed.\" she said.

The next step is a committee vote coming on Thursday. A staffer in Republican senator Howard Marklein's office said after the hearing, Marklein still intends on joining the two Democrats in voting against the bill. If that happens it would mean the bill fails in committee.

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