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Midwest Economic Policy Institute

A Higher Road for a Better Tomorrow

How Should Wisconsin Improve Its Road and Bridge Quality?

A new Midwest Economic Policy Institute (MEPI) Economic Commentary [PDF] compares the quality of roads and bridges in three Midwest states: Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa.

The data show that Illinois has the best overall road and bridge quality of the three states. Wisconsin comes in second, while Iowa has the worst road and bridge quality.

Wisconsin’s roads are in need of improvement, and the state must decide which neighbor it wants to be resemble more. Currently, about 21 percent of public, major roads throughout Wisconsin are in poor condition and 14 percent of bridges are in need of repair. Furthermore, a Wisconsin driver in the Madison area loses 36 hours a year in congestion and Wisconsin motorists spend a total of $6 billion in vehicle costs every year due to congestion and traffic crashes. Traffic fatalities increased also by 13 percent from 2014 to 2015. Continue reading “How Should Wisconsin Improve Its Road and Bridge Quality?”

Waukesha County Expected to Lose 600 Jobs Due to Prevailing Wage Changes

A new Economic Commentary by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute details how the repeal of prevailing wage in Wisconsin will negatively affect Waukesha County.

Report [PDF]Weakening Waukesha County: Prevailing Wage Changes Will Hurt the County

In July 2015, Governor Walker signed the 2015-17 State Budget into law, making significant changes to the state’s prevailing wage laws. Prevailing wage is the minimum hourly wage employers must pay construction workers on projects funded by state dollars. Act 55 of the bill repeals the state prevailing wage law for local governmental units and municipalities. Local municipalities – such as villages, towns, cities, school districts, and sewerage districts – are not obligated to pay a minimum hourly wage to construction workers. These changes will take effect on January 1, 2017.  After the change, state agency and state highway public work projects are the only projects in Wisconsin where prevailing wage rates will apply.

This change will have significant impacts on Wisconsin and Waukesha County’s workforce and economy. Analysis from the report finds: Continue reading “Waukesha County Expected to Lose 600 Jobs Due to Prevailing Wage Changes”

Apprenticeships are Beneficial to the Economy

The following is an excerpt from the guest commentary originally published in The News-GazetteFor the full op-ed and guest appearance, please visit this link.

“Ultimately, the facts make it clear that not everyone is going to go to college. And for those who don’t, our research shows that apprenticeship programs can make a huge difference in their lifetime earnings potential, and the pool of skilled talent that is needed to make our businesses competitive. But it takes a village to prepare the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow.

We need more outreach to encourage businesses to invest in these programs, or offer tax credits to those who do. This is something that South Carolina recently tried, boosting apprenticeships by 570 percent.

We need to address the crisis of child care that is a barrier for many mothers who might otherwise be able to participate in these programs.

We can invest in pre-apprenticeship programs in high schools — particularly disadvantaged schools — to provide more skill-training opportunities for our young people. Dunbar Vocational High School in Chicago is already piloting one such program.

And finally, we need to reject counterproductive policy initiatives — such as efforts to repeal prevailing wage laws — which have proven to decimate these vital workforce training programs across the country.

Ultimately, education lies at the heart of so many of the challenges we face as a state and a country. We need to invest in providing more options that work. And it’s clear that apprenticeships more than meet that standard.”

– Frank Manzo IV, Policy Director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute

Some Opponents of Prevailing Wage Are Really Bad at Math

A new report by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute finds that prevailing wage repeal cannot result in “44 percent savings” in Wisconsin.


Full Report PDF: Prevailing Wage Repeal Cannot Result in “44 Percent Savings:” Evidence from Southwestern Wisconsin

Prevailing wage supports blue-collar workers employed on public construction projects. By preventing government from using its massive purchasing power to undercut local standards, prevailing wage laws ensure that workers are paid a competitive, up-to-date wage and benefits package determined by private actors. Continue reading “Some Opponents of Prevailing Wage Are Really Bad at Math”

Prevailing Wage and Military Veterans in Minnesota

REPORT: Prevailing Wage and Military Veterans in Minnesota: Applied Policy Brief

A new study released today finds that prevailing wage greatly improves economic outcomes for veterans. As many as 2,300 blue-collar veterans in Minnesota would be expected to separate from their construction jobs if Minnesota were to weaken or repeal its prevailing wage law.

Veterans are more likely to work in construction than non-veterans. Nationally, veterans account for 5.8% of the overall workforce but comprise 6.9% of all blue-collar construction workers. In Minnesota, veterans make up an even larger share of the construction workforce. Approximately 9.6% of all blue-collar construction workers in Minnesota are military veterans, above neighboring states and well above the 6.9% U.S. average. Continue reading “Prevailing Wage and Military Veterans in Minnesota”

Weakening Wisconsin’s Prevailing Wage Law Will Negatively Impact Veterans

Veterans in Wisconsin’s construction industry are about to be negatively affected by Wisconsin’s 2015-17 Budget Bill.

Continue reading “Weakening Wisconsin’s Prevailing Wage Law Will Negatively Impact Veterans”

The State of Minnesota’s Unions in 2016

Unionization in Minnesota is higher than the national average, at 14.1 percent. Veterans are among the most unionized groups in the state (21.2 percent). Unions raise wages by 11 percent and help close the racial gap in Minnesota.


This report is the fourth in a five-part series on the “State of the Unions” for Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. All five reports are available at this link.


A new study released today finds that organized labor still plays a considerable role in Minnesota’s economy, despite a decline of approximately 34,000 union members over the past decade.  Continue reading “The State of Minnesota’s Unions in 2016”

Construction Careers in Minnesota

Minnesota’s construction industry employs over 120,000 people and accounts for millions of dollars in the state’s economy. Investments in roads, bridges, houses, buildings, and other infrastructure all tend to increase the quality of life in Minnesota– supporting communities, improving business competitiveness, and growing the economy. Because Minnesota’s population is expected to increase by about one million people by 2030, finding the right workers to enter construction careers who can skillfully construct infrastructure improvements will be crucial to Minnesota’s long-term economic success.

A recent report, “Construction Careers Versus Construction Jobs: A Case Study of Two Construction Sectors in the Twin Cities Region,” by the Midwest Economic Policy Institute (MEPI) looks at the difference between construction careers and seasonal jobs in Minnesota’s construction industry. Continue reading “Construction Careers in Minnesota”

Prevailing Wage and School Construction

Opponents of prevailing wage say the law increases construction costs on all projects: federal projects, state projects, city projects, and even school projects.

In reality, school districts and their communities would benefit from passing a prevailing wage ordinance. Prevailing wage does not increase construction costs, but rather increases worker earnings and grows the economy.

80 percent of all peer-reviewed studies over the last 15 years find that prevailing wage has no statistical impact on school construction costs. Using state-of-the-art statistical methods, the studies have found no cost difference between schools built with prevailing wage and those built without prevailing wage. Continue reading “Prevailing Wage and School Construction”

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