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Prevailing wage changes draw industry support, grumbling

Paul Snyder
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While contractor groups support changes to the state’s prevailing wage reporting system, some contractors remain highly critical.

“There are plenty of other regulations and paperwork that I’ve got to fill out and that I can’t stop,” said Terry Hughes, president of E & N Hughes Co. Inc., Monroe. “This is just one more on the bandwagon. It’s just the way government works.”

Gregory Reesman Jr., president of Burlington-based Reesman’s Excavating & Grading
Inc., agreed.

“It’s one more layer of burden,” he said. “But what’s the economic productivity that comes from it?”

E & N and Reesman’s are members of the Wisconsin Underground Contractors Association Inc. WUCA this week joined the Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association in supporting recent changes made to the reporting system by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

“They opened themselves up for input from the industry,” said WUCA Executive Director Richard Wanta.

“They listened when we had concerns and made changes, they did not have to do that.”

The DWD last month pared what had been a 50-field reporting spreadsheet for nonunion contractors to 34 fields.

Pat Goss, WTBA’s executive director, said that change put the new reporting requirements more in line with those for federal and state highway work and would be more palatable to union and nonunion contractors.

“It’s the fact that from where (DWD) started to where they are now,” he said. “They’re not making this onerous, and I think this is a system that’s more manageable for contractors.”

The state’s prevailing wage law changed Jan. 1. It now requires contractors provide monthly proof they are paying prevailing wages to employees working on state and local government public works projects valued at $25,000 or more. Under previous law, the proof was not required unless the project was valued at $234,000 or more.

Nonunion contractors must prove compliance through the 34-field spreadsheet. Union contractors can submit a copy of their collective bargaining agreements on a project.

But some contractors oppose the revised requirements, and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin Inc. is awaiting a decision on a request for an injunction it filed in January blocking enforcement of the law.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge John Markson is expected to make his ruling May 7, and until then, the DWD cannot punish contractors not submitting monthly reports.

Hughes said he has not had any prevailing wage work to report in Wisconsin this year. He said he has no problem paying those wages to workers.

But he and Reesman said increased reporting does not guarantee a fairer playing field. Although the increased reporting is designed to deter contractors from underpaying workers on public works projects, Hughes and Reesman said contractors already breaking the rules are likely to provide misinformation in their reports.

“Until somebody from the DWD comes out and starts verifying this information, I’m not sure I see the point,” Reesman said. “It’s no different than the Department of Revenue doing an audit, it’s just that we’re doing their work for them. It’s more paperwork for us.”

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