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Senate moving full steam ahead on prevailing wage repeal package

May 12, 2015

Senate Majority Leader Arlan MEEKHOF (R-West Olive) took a decisive step forward on his efforts to repeal Michigan’s 1965 prevailing wage law, telling reporters today that legislation would be taken up in committee next week. 

SB 0001,  SB 0002 and SB 0003 — which would remove provisions in state statute that require government contracts to be based on wages decided in collectively bargained agreements — were the first bills introduced this session and are a top priority for the Senate Republican caucus. 

“It’s abhorrent to me that the taxpayers have to pay more for their buildings,” Meekhof said. “It’s just not right.” 

His comments come on the heels of an Indiana bill repealing common-construction wage that earned Gov. Mike PENCE’s signature Wednesday, which Meekhof testified in favor of before members of the Indiana Legislature (See “Meekhof Promotes Prevailing Wage Repeal In Testimony To Indiana Lawmakers,” 3/31/25).

The pronouncement also follows closely behind Tuesday’s crushing defeat of Proposal 1. When asked about the timing, Meekhof said it was unrelated to roads, saying it’s been his personal belief for a “very, very long time” that the issue should be addressed. 

“It’s always a good time to save taxpayers money,” he said. Gov. Rick SNYDER is “not necessarily supportive of it, but my caucus is.” 

However, some speculate that the bills are back on the table as leverage to ensure interest groups involved in maintaining the prevailing wage and Democratic lawmakers continue to be part of the road funding solution. 

According to several sources, Snyder reportedly promised not to sign prevailing wage repeal as part of Proposal 1 negotiations. Now that the proposal is toast, prevailing wage could once again be a bargaining chip. 

Early this year, Snyder commented that he didn’t support the concept in his first four years and wouldn’t support it in his next four (See “Lawmakers Push Prevailing Wage Repeal; Snyder Doesn’t Support It,” 1/15/15).

Reached today, Snyder spokesperson Sara WURFEL said “nothing has changed” about the Governor’s position since the topic last came up. 

Prevailing wage repeal is also important to House Republicans, who listed its success as its top goal in the caucus’ policy plan (See “GOP Plan Pledges House Will Approve Prevailing Wage Repeal,” 2/5/15).

Members of Democratic leadership on both sides of the rotunda were quick to condemn Meekhof’s decision. 

Senate Minority Leader Jim ANANICH (D-Flint) took a hard opposition stance in a statement, stressing that the legislation would only hurt the economic security of the workers it affects. 

“It saddens me that Senate Republicans will push to lower the wages of Michigan workers, but that appears to be their mission,” he said. “Like so many of the policies of the GOP, it would pad the profits of big corporations at the expense of everyday people.” 

House Minority Leader Tim GREIMEL (D-Auburn Hills) said in the aftermath of Proposal 1’s defeat, Democrats were focusing on protecting middle class families in their road-funding plans, while the Senate Republicans are pursuing prevailing wage repeal, which could lower wages. 

“It’s very disappointing that Senate Republicans have decided to focus on reducing wages for hardworking Michiganders instead of focusing on fixing the roads as Michigan residents want. 

“The reality is that states without prevailing wage laws do not have lower bids for construction work. They have much higher contractor profits.” 

It’s a development members of the affected industries saw coming, but that doesn’t make it any better or less harmful, said Pat DEVLIN of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council. 

The change wouldn’t bring about the projected savings touted by proponents, only harm workers and chip away at the standards of training and skill currently expected of contractors, he said. 

“The thing they don’t understand is, you pay for what you get,” Devlin said. “I hope the Governor puts up a fight.” 

But the announcement quickly gained approval from Americans for Prosperity Michigan, who commended Meekhof and said in a statement that the group would be mobilizing their activists to help support the legislation’s passage. 

“Prevailing wage laws cost taxpayers hundreds of millions in additional costs each year,” said Annie PATNAUDE, the group’s deputy state director. “Taxpayers sent a loud message by soundly rejecting Proposal 1: government needs to focus on priorities and do more with existing resources. Prevailing wage repeal will allow Michigan’s local governments to do just that.” 

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