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Wisconsin Reforms Prevailing Wage Laws

During a controversial budget session, Wisconsin significantly reformed its prevailing wage laws with the help of the ABC Wisconsin Chapter which organized a coalition of local chambers of commerce, school districts, small businesses, and municipal utilities to repeal prevailing wage requirements on all Wisconsin public works projects except those built by the state of Wisconsin and state highway projects. 

When this change takes effect on January 1, 2017, it is estimated that between 80-90 percent of public construction projects in Wisconsin will be exempt from prevailing wage. 

In addition, employees that transport mineral aggregate to a project site or transport excavated material or spoil away from a project site will be exempt from prevailing wage laws. Federal “Davis-Bacon” rates will replace any state determination and will be used to set prevailing wage rates on state projects.     

Wisconsin prevailing wage still will not apply to private/local entities that receive tax breaks. Local governments are also prohibited from creating their own prevailing wage laws. The new law also includes some much needed regulatory reforms of third party prevailing wage complaints.  

The $48,000 single trade and $100,000 multi-trade thresholds triggering prevailing wage requirements on state projects was not changed by the reforms.

“Wisconsin’s prevailing wage reform is meaningful, significant and will provide Wisconsin taxpayers with relief for years to come,” ABC Wisconsin President John Mielke said. “Thanks to these reforms, opportunities for small, local businesses like ABC members will open up for them to compete to build public works projects. We commend the state legislature for passing this reform and applaud Governor Walker for signing it into law.”

Although this was a big win, the special interests groups that opposed this pro-taxpayer, pro-small business reform are not accustomed to losing. ABC Wisconsin is going to work over the next 18 months to make sure that the voters of Wisconsin and the public officials know how important it is for this change to become effective and remain in effect.


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