- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 29, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos doesn’t have the votes to repeal prevailing wage but will look to reform it, he said Wednesday.

Vos told WISN-AM that he supports a full repeal of the prevailing wage law, but it’s likely lawmakers instead will tweak the statutes using Gov. Scott Walker’s budget as a vehicle. He did not elaborate.

Under current Wisconsin law, workers on state or local public works projects or on highway projects must be paid wages equivalent to wages paid for similar projects. A Republican bill introduced in February would end that requirement and block local governments from enacting their own prevailing wage laws or ordinances.

“It’s probably not realistic, honestly, for us to say we’re going to repeal it,” Vos said, “so instead of just sort of taking our ball and going home, we’re trying really hard to get a strong reform package that’ll be put together and hopefully put into the budget.”

Vos spokeswoman Kit Beyer said the speaker would have no additional comments.

Vos also said on WISN-AM that support for prevailing wage repeal has dwindled in the wake of the right-to-work law taking effect in Wisconsin in March, making the payment of private-sector union dues voluntary instead of mandatory. He said some lawmakers told him they faced opposition in their districts after voting for right-to-work, so they couldn’t stand with him in repealing prevailing wage.

Walker’s absence in the dialogue about prevailing wage also impacted his decision to change course, Vos said.

“On these topics, a lot of times if it’s hard to explain, they really need the governor to step out there and help us with the message,” Vos said. “And we haven’t gotten (that), he’s been focused on the budget instead of prevailing wage.”

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the governor will continue discussions with lawmakers and that he expects a proposal addressing prevailing wage to be included in the budget.

Speaking with reporters in Milwaukee Wednesday, Walker said he had talked with legislators, some of whom said they favored total repeal, some who wanted no change and some who wanted changes in the law, the Journal Sentinel reported.

But Walker said he had higher priorities: a budget that includes property tax relief, no increases in the gas tax and more investment in worker training and in public education.

Walker’s budget is not final. Lawmakers will continue working on the budget and will submit their version this summer.


Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bydanaferguson .

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