Prevailing wage repeal levels field

Devin LeMahieu • 9th Senatorial District

When I ran for office last fall, I pledged to reduce burdensome government red tape and protect taxpayers, while maintaining our core priorities. This week I voted for a responsible budget that accomplishes this. The citizens I represent live within their means, and they expect the state to do the same. With this budget we made the tough decisions to provide the services we expect in Wisconsin, while not raising taxes and cutting borrowing levels to the lowest level in 20 years.

A key reform included in the budget is the repeal of the prevailing wage law for local governments, including school districts. This depression-era law sets wages for construction workers on public works projects, often substantially higher than the market rate. The law drives up infrastructure costs, increasing local taxes.

Reforming this law was a major priority for me in this budget. Taxpayers, small businesses, school superintendents, mayors, town board members, county administrators, and other local leaders throughout the district have shared their opposition with me to the prevailing wage law.

The prevailing wage repeal will save millions of dollars for counties, towns, municipalities, and school districts. The repeal also levels the playing field for small businesses that for too long have been boxed out of government projects because of the high administrative costs of this confusing, protectionist law.

This budget also improves Wisconsin’s tax code. The average homeowner will see reductions in their property tax bill two years in a row. In addition, the budget reduces the so-called “marriage penalty,” an income tax provision that taxes married couples more than individuals.

While protecting taxpayers is critical, we also must not jeopardize our core priorities – such as education. The legislature responded to the concerns of many on K-12 education by adding added $200 million to K-12 education funding – reversing the Governor’s proposed cut to schools and even increasing funding. Access to the school choice program is expanded, empowering more families of limited means to choose the school that is right for their child. We decreased the cut to the UWSystem, while granting it flexibility to adapt.

During the budget process I had the opportunity to hear many concerns from citizens throughout the 9th Senate District. Many changes were made to the budget to ensure that the most vulnerable are protected such as keeping Aging and Disability Resource Centers local, maintaining a self-directed care option that will mirror the current IRIS program and preserving Senior Care. The budget also invests an additional $650 million into Medical Assistance programs.

It was rewarding to put my own stamp on the budget through the amendment process. Working with local school district superintendents and colleges, we modified the Course Options program to maintain access to college credits for high school students in a sustainable way. Another amendment I introduced allows local governments to carry forward up to 5% of their levy limit, giving flexibility to encourage smart budgeting. I also authored an amendment to fight waste, fraud, and abuse in public benefits by recapturing the cost of lost or stolen EBT cards and saving taxpayer money.

We accomplished all this without raising taxes, while ending the budget cycle with an $87 million surplus and maintaining our $280 million rainy day fund.

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