DOT Secretary David Ross listens to group of construction indust - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

DOT Secretary David Ross listens to group of construction industry leaders following governor's budget address

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WISCONSIN DELLS (WKOW) -- A day after governor Scott Walker addressed his budget to state legislators, Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary David Ross spoke to a group of construction industry leaders about the future of highway jobs and wages in the state. 

Secretary Ross addressed members of the Construction Business Group at a winter conference in the Wisconsin Dells Friday.

The speech included an update on current and future road projects, which was followed by a question and answer session between industry leaders and Secretary Ross.

Industry leaders included private contractors, construction labor representatives, and corporate business owners.

One of the main concerns regarding the Governor's budget was repealing prevailing wage, which sets minimum salaries for construction workers.

Members of the highway construction industry say the repeal makes it look like construction workers in the state already make too much money, which they say is not true.

"It implies that our projects will come in cheaper if we just pay those construction workers less money," said Wisconsin State Council of Carpenters Director Mark Reihl, in response to the governor's proposed solution to resume delayed highway projects.

Construction leaders say they already struggle enough to get more people to join the industry.

"We're going to have a hard time getting people to put in an application and feel like what they're doing is actually an asset to society," said private contractor Ryan Pheifer.

Operating Engineers Local 139 President Terry McGowan agrees.

"Saying you're going to do everything to reduce the wages, and be below middle class is not the way to attract people to our trades, and our infrastructure is falling apart right now," said McGowan.

McGowan worries with the repeal of prevailing wage and less in state workers joining the job force, more construction positions will start becoming outsourced. 

Secretary Ross says he'll continue to visit construction industries and listen to their concerns as the budget moves forward through the joint finance committee. 

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