Dane County voters will be asked this fall whether they favor raising Wisconsin’s minimum wage to $10.10 per hour.
County supervisors voted to place the referendum question on November’s ballot after more than two hours of public testimony and discussion June 26 in Madison. Dane County now joins Milwaukee, Eau Claire and Kenosha to have the matter appear on their ballots.
Supervisor Carousel Andrea Bayrd of Madison called the current wage rate of $7.25 per hour “abysmal” and was one of multiple individuals who voiced support for doubling the minimum wage.
“This is the first step to establish a local Dane County minimum wage of $15,” said Bayrd, the resolution's sponsor.
Supervisor Al Matano of Madison offered a motion to amend the resolution to $15 per hour, but the move was defeated.
“I think we are realistic at $10.10 and I think it's a fair and equitable figure,” Supervisor Dennis O'Loughlin of DeForest said. “Some day down the road we can look at a $15 figure.”
Working 40 hours per week would net a Wisconsin resident $15,080 per year under the current minimum wage. A report earlier this year by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Dane County, an individual must earn $14.27 per hour.
“On that [$7.25] salary, a resident of Dane County cannot afford the basic fundamental needs of housing and food,” the resolution reads.
In other business, supervisors unanimously approved a 2016 agreement between the county and its largest employees union.
The deal with American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) includes a 22 cent per-hour raise and calls for the creation of a committee to increase minority recruitment and retention.
The raise amounts to $630,000 once implemented countywide. County Executive Joe Parisi said the raise will be paid for in part by savings the county will receive from changes to employee health insurance plans.
The agreement grants both sides the ability to review wages again in August 2015 once the county’s financial picture is clearer, a provision that Local 705 and 720 joint council president Shannon Maier said she was “pleased” with.
Supervisor John Hendrick of Madison said the agreement is a “historic moment” for the county and gives the board “a chance to be a statewide model for labor management cooperation in the face of statewide government policy that is moving in the opposite direction” in the wake of Act 10.
•The board voted to grant county 911 center director John Dejung a new five-year contract with his current salary of $142,800. The 911 center has been dogged in recent months by complaints that its call answering procedures and dispatch times do not meet national safety standards.
•County Clerk Scott McDonnell was lauded with a resolution in recognition of his behind-the-scenes work to help the first same-sex couples in Wisconsin wed in early June. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb on June 6 struck down a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The move gave McDonell and a host of other county clerks across Wisconsin and opportunity to begin issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. More than 200 marriages involving same sex couples from Dane County ultimately occurred before Crabb granted a request from state Attorney General J.B. VanHollen on June 9 to stay her ruling while VanHollen’s appeal of the judge’s ruling plays out in a higher court. “It was striking to see people who had been denied this basic right for 50 years, to finally see the joy in their eyes is something I will never forget,” McDonell said. McDonell thanked the volunteers and county executive’s office for their support.
•Supervisor Heidi Wegleitner of Madison asked that the board consider a resolution at its July 17 meeting for a centrally located homeless day shelter and resource center. A board majority last month voted in favor of purchasing an existing site at 1490 Martin St. — about two miles south of downtown in the town of Madison — for $330,000 with plans to refurbish it. Wegleitner and a collection of likeminded supervisors believe the Martin Street site is too far from the downtown area where the bulk of Madison’s homeless congregate.