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Our View: Hear all sides on prevailing wage plan
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The City of Monroe will host a town hall meeting a week from today, May 7, on a plan to change the state's prevailing wage law. That's a good thing, as the law and the potential modifications could have significant implications on local governments, businesses and workers. The issue also is a complex one.

A budget proposal by Gov. Jim Doyle would require construction firms receiving government assistance to pay all workers at least the prevailing wage. Currently, the prevailing wage law covers only tax-financed public works projects, such as highway improvements and new schools. Doyle's law would touch a number of other commercial projects, including developments like the Walmart Supercenter in Monroe.

The impact of the change on developers and contractors is clear - paying wages on projects with any government assistance would become more costly. Governmental bodies worry it will discourage economic development. On the flip side, a number of workers would receive more pay for their work - money that conceivably would be put back into the economy through purchases.

Monroe Mayor Ron Marsh said the prevailing wage law now affects about "two to five" city projects each year. A change in the law, Marsh said, has the potential to impact "80 to 100 projects."

Marsh on Monday called the prevailing wage law a "dinosaur," and said the changes would be counterproductive to economic development. He also said the changes would be "labor-intensive" for the city because of additional paperwork.

And therein lies our concern about next Thursday's town hall meeting. The mayor obviously has his opinions about the prevailing wage law, and he has a right to it. But the meeting should not be held simply to push against the bill. All opinions should be welcome, and as many aspects of the legislation presented as possible. The announcement of the meeting invites the public to "to listen and ask questions on how the proposed ... bill ... will affect businesses."

But the bill obviously will impact far more entities than businesses. It will raise wages for local workers, one of the reasons state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Waunakee, favors the bill with some modifications. It is encouraging that Erpenbach or a representative is scheduled to attend the meeting, as is Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, who has publicly opposed the prevailing wage changes.

The prevailing wage law is an important topic with significant ramifications. It deserves a local hearing, without agendas in its planning and execution. Hopefully the mayor and anyone else organizing the meeting will approach the session in that manner.