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home : opinions : opinions August 18, 2017

1/10/2017 7:29:00 AM
Reader disagrees with Tiffany about prevailing wage reform

To the Editor:

Senator Tiffany's e-update arrived on Dec. 23 with the usual pleasantries, announcements and pictures. Down at the bottom of Senator Tiffany's update is his comment on "prevailing wage reform" legislation, for which he rightly claims a good deal of responsibility. He says that "beginning January 1, 2017, there will be no prevailing wage requirements for any public works project other than state of Wisconsin projects (including UW and DOT state highway work) and any project that uses federal dollars. That means all municipal projects, all school district projects, all municipal utility projects will be exempt. In 2015, that was $2 billion in construction. If those projects had not been subject to prevailing wage, that would have been an estimated $250 million savings."

It doesn't take much effort to find that there are a number of studies which examine the proposition that disposing of prevailing wage requirements cuts costs and thus benefits taxpayers. Most of the studies indicate that the opposite is more likely to be the case. Doing away with prevailing wage may, on occasion, save a few dollars on some projects, and most often does not reduce the overall cost of the project.

It does consistently reduce something, and this should not be overlooked: it almost always reduces the wages of the workers. So if the taxpayers only benefit on rare occasions, and the workers consistently lose, who benefits from the reform? This legislation is a good example of making policy on the basis of what we hope might be true, rather than what actually may be demonstrated.

Jim Leschke


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