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Bill would prohibit local 'living wage' ordinances

Living wage demonstrators at the state capitol (Photo: Wisconsin Radio Network)
Living wage demonstrators at the state capitol (Photo: Wisconsin Radio Network)

UNDATED (WRN)  The state Assembly on Thursday approved a bill that places new limits on local living wage ordinances. The measure would make it so local governments cannot enact measures that require government workers and contract employees be paid more than the state’s minimum wage.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) says it’s meant to keep local governments from using state and federal dollars to pay employees those higher wages, which he argues results in taxpayers from other areas subsidizing those workers. Vos says communities would still be able to pay those workers more, but “it comes down to using your own levy dollars, not just passing the bill on to somebody else to pay for it.”

Only Madison, Milwaukee, and Dane County have living wage ordinances in effect. The bill was introduced after the Milwaukee County Board recently approved an ordinance as well, which has not yet been enacted.

Democrats criticized the legislation as an assault on local control. State Representative Terese Berceau (D-Madison) says Madison and Dane County have had living wage ordinances on the books for several years, and they have not stifled development there. “Leave us alone,” Berceau argued, “we see paying a living wage as a moral issue, and it’s been great for the Madison economy as well.”

The legislation passed on a party line vote and now heads to the state Senate.

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