- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The prospects for a bill that would eliminate Wisconsin’s prevailing wage law appear grim after it failed to receive a recommendation from a Senate committee Thursday.

The Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform voted against advancing the Republican-penned bill 3-2, but advocates were quick to point out that doesn’t mean it’s dead. While the committee didn’t recommend the bill, it will move to the Senate Organization Committee where it may be scheduled for a floor hearing in the chamber.

Under the current law, crews on state or local public projects and highway projects must be paid wages equivalent to what they would earn working on other projects in the area.

Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said Thursday he has heard city and county governments say they couldn’t afford construction and expansion projects because prevailing wage makes them too expensive.

“We have to give the opportunity to our municipalities to be competitive, to stretch that dollar,” Wanggaard said.

But Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Kenosha, said he’s heard city council members in his district ask that legislators maintain the law as a protection for workers. And Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement Thursday that the measure would compromise Wisconsin’s workforce and savings to the state would be minimal.

“We all agree we want our Packers to be better than the Vikings and Bears - why wouldn’t we expect the same for our workers?” Larson said. “We definitely don’t want Jay Cutler to replace Aaron Rodgers. So why would we want low-wage, low-skill workers to replace our workers who are already ranked best in the Midwest?”

The committee’s two Democrats, Wirch and Larson, voted against the measure along with Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green.

The bill can still go to the Senate for a vote without the committee’s recommendation, but Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, on Wednesday said its chances were “murky.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has said he doesn’t have the votes in the Assembly to pass a repeal and that his caucus has considered reforming the prevailing wage law in the state budget.

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

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