Well, sort of. There are three major issues of contention that have been holding up the budget and the Republican legislative leaders have come to enough agreement to move ahead. Let’s take a look.
Issue #1: Prevailing Wage
Under the agreement leadership reached, the Assembly will bring to the floor next week a bill introduced in that chamber to fully repeal the prevailing wage. Assembly Republicans will then offer an amendment to the bill that reflects a package Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, has put together. It would repeal the prevailing wage statutes for local governments and federalize it for state work. State thresholds currently on the books would remain in effect.
The jury is out on whether this is good or not. I’m worried that the repeal of prevailing wage has been separated from the budget. Several conservatives, including my own Senator, have said that they won’t vote for a budget without a repeal of prevailing wage. This removes it from the budget, but it is being taken up in tandem with the budget. That makes it more difficult, but not impossible, for those conservatives to stick to their guns.
As for the proposal itself, it is better than what Vos floated yesterday, but it still isn’t a full repeal. Eliminating prevailing wage for local governments would be huge and using federal standards for wage calculations would help make compliance easier and more sensible. This proposal admits how much money repealing prevailing wage would save, but doesn’t extend those savings into state projects. I’d take the deal if we can’t get to full repeal, but it leaves a lot of work left to be done.
Issue #2: Transportation
The transportation package includes $500 million in bonding with another $350 million the committee can issue as the Department of Transportation submits requests for work. That would still be a significant reduction from the $1.3 billion in borrowing Gov. Scott Walker proposed.
Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the reduction would be felt fairly evenly between out-state projects and the Zoo Interchange. Still, work on the core of the Zoo would not be impacted. Rather work on the north leg would be delayed.
It’s an improvement over Walker’s budget, but it still borrows too much and spends too much.
Issue #3: Bucks Arena
The deal for taxpayer support of a new arena for the Bucks will be removed from the budget and taken up as a separate bill. This is fantastic. Yes, it makes it more difficult to pass a deal because now the Republicans have to get some of the Democrats to agree, but that’s a good thing. Any funding deal will be controversial and should be passed with bipartisan support. This allows the deal to be fully debated and vetted with everyone’s cards on the table.