The Republican-led Wisconsin state Senate is discussing a bill to repeal prevailing wage laws for public works projects. As with most such attacks on working people in the United States, the arguments advanced in service of stripping rights from workers fall flat under even the slightest scrutiny.
Even Republicans admit that when pressed. Indiana passed a similar law in 2015 and video has surfaced from a forum April 24 in Milwaukee, where Indiana's House Assistant Majority Leader Ed Soliday (R) admits that the prevailing wage repeal in his state didn't save a penny.
We got rid of prevailing wage and so far it hasn’t saved a penny. Probably the people most upset with us repealing [prevailing] wage were the locals. Because the locals, quite frankly, like to pay local contractors and they like local contractors to go to the dentist in their own town.
The exaggerations in those hearings that we were going save 22%. Well, total labor costs right now in road construction is about 22%, and I haven’t noticed anyone who’s going to work for free. [They claim] there’s some magic state out there that’s going to send all these workers into work for $10 an hour and it’s just not going to happen. There’s not 22% savings out there when the total cost of labor is 22%. It’s rhetoric. So far, I haven’t seen a dime of savings out of it.
Analysis of the Wisconsin legislation shows that $1.2 billion will be lost annually if the bill passes because of reduced economic activity. Study of the Indiana repeal shows that the state lost jobs because of it, and neighboring Kentucky saw a very similar number of new construction jobs appear in the aftermath.