The state House has given initial approval to a repeal of Missouri’s “prevailing wage” law, which sets what local governments and school boards must pay for construction or maintenance work.
The wage is set on a county-by-county basis based on wage surveys for each type of work, such as carpentry, bricklaying, or electrical work. When a county does not have adequate wage data, the union rate for that trade is used.
Republicans supporting House Bill 104 say the prevailing wage law drives up the cost of projects, making local governments postpone work or forgo it altogether. The sponsor of HB 104, Representative Warren Love (R-Osceola), said his bill would allow more projects to move forward.
Love gave the example of an ambulance district in his district that was based in a house, which needed roof repair after a hailstorm. Love said other, similar repairs in the area were costing about $22,000, but because the ambulance district must pay prevailing wage, it would cost more than $63,000.
“The insurance company, due to the similar, like projects in that area only paid $22,000 for that public work project, so the other $40,000 had to come up and be made out of the ambulance district, which was taxpayer money,” said Love.
Democrats including Doug Beck (D-St. Louis) say the legislation is simply another attack on workers.
“There’s been study after study that says that eliminating the prevailing wage does not reduce construction costs. All it does is reduce the amount of revenue that comes into a state from construction workers,” said Beck.
Grandview Democrat Joe Runions said eliminating prevailing wage would lead to more jobs going to contractors from other states, who would take their pay back out of Missouri.
Opposition to HB 104 was bipartisan, but it was given first-round approval on a 93-60 vote.
Another vote could send HB 104 to the state Senate. It would be the continuation of the House Republican Supermajority’s labor reform efforts this year, which have also included passage of a bill to require annual permission from a worker before union dues could be taken from his or her pay, and a right-to-work bill that has been signed into law by Governor Eric Greitens (R).