Report: Republicans Did Not Consider Social Costs of Prevailing Wage Law Repeal

By Jim Lundstrom, Peninsula Pulse
June 30th, 2017

Republican lawmakers have set their sights on repealing the state’s prevailing wage law for public projects as a way to save taxpayer money on infrastructure costs, but opponents say it is an attack on the middle-class, blue-collar worker.

The bill would end all prevailing wage laws for state-funded construction projects, and Senate sponsor Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) claims it will save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau recently reported “existing research on the impact of prevailing wage laws on construction costs is mixed and inconclusive.”

A report released June 19 by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute say advocates for repeal have not considered the social costs of such a move.

“The worst-case potential social costs of repealing prevailing wage range from $224 million to $337 million every year,” the report states. “When worker wages are cut, they contribute less in state and federal income taxes. At the same time, more workers qualify for and rely on government assistance. This results in less money in the state economy and less money in the pockets of hardworking citizens.”

The report goes on to say “between four and 12 percent of construction workers in Wisconsin would newly qualify for government assistance if prevailing wage were repealed, depending on the severity of the wage cut. This is in addition to the 14.5 percent who already qualify for government assistance in the state.”

In April, Gumieny and others in the construction business attended the 3rd Annual Construction Workers’ Memorial Service in Madison to recognize individuals who lost their lives in construction accidents in the state. As the memorial procession walked from Monona Terrace to St. Patrick’s Church for a memorial service, Gumieny said they passed four infrastructure construction projects near the state Capitol, and three of those were being done by out-of-state outfits.

“Since January of this year, we’ve lost 53 percent of that work that used to be here for Wisconsinites,” Gumieny said. “The study was from January through last month. Fifty-three percent of that work went to out-of-state contractors. It will not benefit anybody for that loss of work here for Wisconsinites in the construction industry. For what this legislation is doing, it’s unfair to the people of Wisconsin. The only time you see fair government is when you put them in gridlock and have equal Republican to Democrats. At that point the only thing that really comes out are things that are truly good for the people.”

(Read More)

Prevailing wage repeal will hurt taxpayers, workers

Beth Meyers represents the 74th Assembly District of Wisconsin

Jun 26, 2017

MADISON- The citizens of Wisconsin have seen their fair share of legislative proposals this year that could dramatically change the status quo for our state. From changes to how the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources addresses high capacity wells to new limits on campus free speech, there are always controversial issues being brought up and debated in Madison. While, the biennial budget is still being discussed and negotiated with Majority Party leaders in both houses, important issues such as transportation funding and K-12 education funding need to be negotiated before the budget comes to the Assembly floor.

However, there is another plot being hatched in Madison which has significant implications not only for Wisconsin’s skilled workers but for taxpayers as well. Just this week, I stood beside my colleagues, laborers, and construction groups for a press conference which focused on a new report from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute. This report considered the potential repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law, and its impact on our state’s workforce and on taxpayers’ pocketbooks. Prevailing wage laws require that construction workers on state projects be paid the wages and benefits prevailing for similar work in the surrounding area. This prevailing wage rate helps prevent a race to the bottom that could lead to a less productive workforce and inferior construction practices.

In 2015, the Legislature ended prevailing wage for local construction projects, and the impact was disastrous for Wisconsin’s workers. Since the repeal came into effect, there has been a 50 percent increase in construction projects going to out-of-state contractors. Now, Republican legislators want to repeal prevailing wage for state projects as well.

According to the Midwest Economic Policy Institute’s research, a construction worker would see their average yearly salary of $51,000 be cut to $29,500, under a prevailing wage repeal. That is a 44 percent cut in pay! This hard-earned income is not only taken away from workers who receive prevailing wage – it has a far-reaching negative multiplier effect for all Wisconsinites. We all know that the economy is interconnected, and cutting income for workers in one area has an impact on all of us. Northern Wisconsin can’t endure a 44 percent wage loss for workers who want to buy homes, raise families, and support local businesses in our communities.

Our workforce is at a crossroads. Now more than ever, we need to protect Wisconsin’s workers and make sure there is ample opportunity for them to succeed in highly skilled trades.

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Prevailing Wage Repeal Would Hurt Kentucky’s Economy

Repealing Kentucky’s prevailing wage law would weaken the state’s economy, according to a new study.

Eliminating prevailing wage would cause a pay cut for middle-class workers, qualify more workers for public assistance, slash apprenticeship training, and result in more of Kentucky’s tax dollars going to out-of-state or foreign contractors. Veterans, who populate construction trades at a higher rate than non-veterans, would be particularly impacted if Kentucky were to repeal its prevailing wage standards.

DECEMBER 16, 2016

The report was authored by economics professor Kevin Duncan, PhD and Frank Manzo IV, MPP- Policy Director of the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, a division of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute.

Full Report: The Economic, Fiscal, and Social Effects of Kentucky’s Prevailing Wage Law.

Fact Sheet #1: One-page summary of the report.

Fact Sheet #2: One-page summary – version 2.

The preponderance of peer-reviewed economic research finds that prevailing wage laws do not increase construction costs, including three-fourths of all studies over the past two decades. This finding directly disputes the claims of those who advocate for repealing Kentucky’s 76-year-old prevailing wage law. Unfortunately, some prevailing wage opponents are either really bad at math, or they expect the people of Kentucky to work for poverty-level wages.

(Read More)

Weakening Prevailing Wage Hurts Local Contractors (IN)

A case study from Southern Indiana demonstrates how weakening prevailing wage negatively impacts local contractors and local workers.

Published by Frank Manzo IV
JUNE 15, 2016

Out-of-state contractors benefited after Indiana weakened its prevailing wage law, according to a new Economic Commentary from the Midwest Economic Policy Institute.

Despite an emerging academic consensus that shows state prevailing wage laws have no discernible impact on project costs, lawmakers in Indiana weakened the state’s law – called Common Construction Wage – between 2012 and 2015. In 2013, the threshold for coverage was increased from $250,000 to $350,000, meaning that workers were no longer paid a prevailing wage rate on projects costing between $250,000 and $349,999.

Prior to raising its contract threshold to $350,000, hourly earnings for construction workers in Indiana were similar to all neighboring states except Kentucky. Economic research suggests that out-of-state contractors with lower-paid workers will flood the public construction market after a prevailing wage law is weakened. If true, the greatest threat to Indiana contractors would come from across its southern border in Kentucky, where construction workers earned $5 less per hour on average in July 2012.

(Read More)

The CCW is Common Sense Construction

Today, the Midwest Economic Policy Institute released Common Sense Construction: The Economic Impacts of  Indiana’s Common Construction Wage with the University of Illinois School of Labor and Employment Relations and Smart Cities Prevail. The report finds that Indiana’s Common Construction Wage (CCW) promotes positive labor market outcomes for both construction workers and contractors.

Ten facts about the Indiana CCW:

1. The Common Construction Wage keeps Hoosier jobs local. (For more, see pages 5 and 11-13)

2. The Common Construction Wage does not increase total construction costs for public projects. (Pg. 4)

3. The Common Construction Wage promotes an upwardly-mobile, high-road economy for working families. (Pg. 5-8)

4. The Common Construction Wage supports almost 2,000 non-construction jobs and nearly $250 million in total worker income throughout the state. (Pg. 13-14)

5. The Common Construction Wage boosts the Indiana economy by about $700 million. (Pg. 13)

6. The Common Construction Wage increases tax revenues for all levels of government. (Pg. 15)

7. The Common Construction Wage fosters safer workplaces for Indiana construction workers. (Pg. 15-16)

8. The Common Construction Wage increases the benefits package paid to workers by around 20 percent. (Pg. 17)

9. The Common Construction Wage produces a highly-skilled, highly-productive workforce. (Pg. 18-19)

10. The Common Construction Wage does not favor union contractors over nonunion contractors. (Pg. 19-21)

(Copy of Report)

YouTube Video: Common Construction Wage Works!