Just Pay Us – Senate Holds Public Hearing on Living Wage Preemption Bill

MacIver News Service | March 3, 2014

[Madison, Wisc…] The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor held a public hearing on Monday on Senate Bill 626, which would ensure municipalities do not use state or federal funds to pay for living wage ordinances.

Currently, Madison has a living wage set at $12.45 an hour and the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors passed a living wage of $11.32 an hour last month. Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is expected to veto that ordinance, but the County Board will likely overturn it.

Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) authored the sister bills in the Assembly and Senate respectively.

Kapenga testified in front of the committee in favor of his bill.

“Under our bill, if [Milwaukee] County decides, ‘We still want to have this in place,’ they would just have to fund the contracts with their own money and not the money of state taxpayers,” Kapenga said during his testimony.

Jennifer Epps-Addison, Executive Director of the liberal advocacy group Wisconsin Jobs Now, spoke in opposition of the bill and took the chance to chide corporations.

“Living wages are a commitment to taxpayers that our money will not be used to subsidize the profits of corporations at the expense of our neighbors and fellow taxpayers who are suffering through poverty while providing of the most critical services to our communities,” Epps-Addison said at the hearing.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Deanna Alexander, who voted against the Milwaukee County living wage ordinance, spoke in favor of the SB 626. She said the bill would save Milwaukee from itself.

“The [living wage ordinance] will artificially raise wages without any correlation to increased efficiency, service, production or expertise,” Alexander said. “The best thing you can do is save us from ourselves.”

Monique McKinney was another individual to speak in opposition of the bill. She argued that if public workers were paid more, they would not rely on government assistance.

“We wouldn’t have to get food share, health care, all that from the government assistance, if you just passed a bill and just paid us,” McKinney told committee members. “Give us what we are asking for, so everybody can be happy and live like you live.”

The bill has yet to be scheduled for a vote in the committee, but could be up as early as Wednesday.