Tucked away in a Wisconsin budget that calls for reducing income taxes by $343 million and spending $6.4 billion on transportation is a proposal that would greatly change the way state construction projects are awarded and managed.
A section of the budget dedicated to the state’s Department of Administration, which oversees state construction projects, calls for making single-prime contracts the default means of delivery for projects costing more than $185,000. That same section calls for the department to oversee the subcontractor bid process to ensure transparency.
Under that system, a single general contractor partners with the state to perform work on a project. The current default method is multiple prime, in which companies in the heating, plumbing, electrical, HVAC and fire protection industries each can have separate contracts with the state.
It was just one of myriad small details that appear in Gov. Scott Walker’s voluminous budget but received no mention during his more than 40-minute address to the state Assembly, Senate, members of the Supreme Court and general public Wednesday night. Most of the topics were of a large order and were about proposals he had already put forth in the previous months — school vouchers, tax reductions and entitlement reforms.
Various subcontractors have expressed concerns about the possibility that the state would move toward making single-prime contracting the default method of project delivery in Wisconsin. Some have said the system is less transparent than multiple-prime bidding and deprives them of various legal protections they now have.
Reached before the governor’s speech, Jeff Beiriger, executive director of Specialty Contractors of Wisconsin, said it’s important to remember that including something in the budget is often only used as a means to start talks.
“It’s like anything that goes into the budget,” he said. “Most of the time that’s the beginning of a good discussion on these issues. And that certainly would be the case here as well.”