The prevailing wage laws are costing all Wisconsinites real money, and yet the Republicans in the legislature are seemingly unable to garner the votes to repeal them. Why? The excuse given for public consumption is that repealing the prevailing wage laws would harm the workers who are currently being paid the inflated wages, and that would harm Wisconsin’s economy. That is an incomplete picture. The money to pay for those inflated wages comes from somewhere — the wages of other Wisconsin workers. And the above-market wages being paid for public projects means that fewer projects are being done than could be. That means fewer people being employed to work on those projects.
But the real reason that some Republicans are opposing the repeal of the prevailing wage laws is the one that they won’t put in a press release. Many of the people who oppose the repeal are the owners and bigwigs of the large contractors that do most of those public projects. The large contractors love the prevailing wage laws because they artificially inflate the cost of labor and prevent newer, hungrier, companies from underbidding them. The law protects their business and their profits. And many of them are large political donors to Republicans.