August 20, 2014

House considers further changes to Missouri prevailing wage law

A House Committee has heard a proposal that would make changes to Missouri law governing out wage rates are set for public building projects.

Representative Warren Love (R-Osceola) proposes having the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations set prevailing hourly wages at the state average weekly wage as determined by the department for each occupational title in the area.

See Love’s proposal, HB 1306

Opponents of the bill note the legislature just passed changes to Missouri prevailing wage law, HB 34 in 2013.

Attorney Jim Fall with the Missouri AFL-CIO says even though the new law took effect August 28, its impacts are still not known.

“The new rates from that law have not even been established yet. They won’t be established until, I believe it is, March of this year,” Fall tells the committee. “So, we would be changing the law not only without a number of years to look at to see what would happen, we would never have seen what would happen, period.”

Proponents of the bill say last year’s legislation was more narrowly focused and more reforms are needed. They argue that allowing lower wages to be paid on public projects would stimulate more jobs by lowering overall costs and letting projects be undertaken.

Critics like Representative Michael Frame (R-Eureka) say the real goal is simply to lower worker’s wages to benefit local governments whose taxes are too low to be able to afford needed public works projects.

“You haven’t stepped up to the plate to make a tax where you can pay for these folks, but you’re saying, ‘Your wage is too high. We’re asking you to give us some type of entitlement here … some type of handout here … and charge less in our counties because we’re not willing to tax ourselves at a rate to employ you.”

The legislation has not received a vote.