Simply reforming the unjust prevailing wage law will not make it just

June 17, 2015

by Nick Novak

Originally published by the Wausau Daily Herald.

A little over four years ago, Wisconsin lawmakers took bold action to protect current and future taxpayers from the high costs associated with restrictive collective bargaining laws. Since then, Act 10 has proved to be a success at every level of government.

While the decision to pursue such reforms was met with boisterous opposition, including two rounds of recall elections, our elected leaders in Madison did what was best for the state’s financial future, ignoring the fact that it could cost them their political future.

But, the decision to stand up for taxpayers in the face of such adversity paid off. Wisconsin has saved $3 billion because of Act 10, and the politicians on the right side of history were rewarded with re-election.

The time for big and bold reforms is not over, though. Wisconsin is still harmed by outdated policies that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. One such policy is prevailing wage. While it may sound good on the surface, prevailing wage artificially increases the costs of public projects by double digits.

In the Village of Grafton, taxpayers had to pay an additional $260,000 for painting and maintenance of two water towers because of prevailing wage. In Vilas County, the cost to build a six-mile ATV trail off of Highway K jumped from $180,000 to $330,000. In both cases, no extra work was done — the bill just got bigger.

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This column also was published by the La Crosse Tribune, and the MacIver Institute.