Grothman, Kapenga Disappointed the Senate Won’t Take Up Living Wage Bill

MacIver News Service | March 10, 2014

[Madison, Wisc…] Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) and Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) recently expressed their displeasure over the fact that Senate Bill 626 would not get a vote on the Senate floor before the end of the session.

SB 626, introduced by Grothman and Kapenga, would ban municipalities and counties from using state or federal funds to pay for a living wage ordinance. This type of ordinance requires government workers and employees of companies that contract with the local unit of government to be paid a minimum wage higher than the state minimum wage.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said late last week that the bill is “unlikely” to move through the Senate. This came after Wisconsin Jobs Now protesters filled the hearing room during the committee vote on the bill shouting, “Walk in our shoes.” The bill passed out of committee 3-2.

Kapenga urged Senators to support the bill.

“I will continue to engage with Senators and push for this important piece of legislation,” Kapenga told the MacIver News Service. “Creating an environment that gets more people working will naturally inflate wages, but trying to force it through governmental engineering only creates more unemployment.”

Grothman said in an interview he was disappointed the bill would not be voted on.

“This is a time of year where a lot of bills that you would hope would pass do not,” Grothman said. “Apparently, we do not have a lot of wiggle room in the state senate, and some senators did not want to have this debate.”

Dane County and Madison both have had a living wage law in place for more than a decade. Madison is the higher of the two at $12.45 an hour. The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors recently passed a living wage ordinance that would increase the wage to $11.32 an hour. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is expected to veto the ordinance, but the Board is expected to overturn his decision with a 12-6 supermajority.

Wisconsin Jobs Now has derided the legislature for the bill. The liberal advocacy group did not stick to the facts in a recent email, however.

“Their latest attempt, Senate Bill 626, would make local living wage laws (like the passed [sic] 15 years ago in Madison) illegal,” the email reads.

Both Kapenga and Grothman explained at previous committee meetings that the bill does not make living wage ordinances illegal. Counties and municipalities could still implement living wage laws if they use local revenue.

Grothman thinks some Republicans in the Senate are afraid of the controversy of the bill, but warns that refusing to pass the bill may have higher costs in the future.

“This will be very bad for people who rely on Family Care in Milwaukee and I hope the legislators that killed this bill do not turn around and expect to spend more state money next year to make up for their pusillanimity,” Grothman said.

During the Senate public hearing, one Family Care provider in Milwaukee testified that it would be difficult to continue operating if the living wage ordinance went into effect.

The Assembly passed their version of the bill last month.