JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri House of Representatives is moving forward with proposed changes to the state’s prevailing wage, though not without some bump and grind along the way.
Rep. Jeff Justus’ bill, a House Committee substitute for HB 1729, 1621, 1436, seeks to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, though other bills filed in the House simply seek to modify it.
Supporters of the bill argue that by repealing the law, the market would set the wage rate, which in turn would lead to more qualified and competitive bids for public works projects.
“This is not a kick for anybody, this is for the taxpayers, those who are paying,” Justus said.
A number of representatives rose on Tuesday afternoon to debate the bill, with members of both parties rising in opposition.
Rep. Doug Beck spoke in defense of prevailing wage, saying that the proposed bill would push down wages for every worker in the state, and calling it “foolish.”
“You are telling them you want them to make less money,” Beck said, calling it a vote to cut their pay.
He said that by removing the prevailing wage, Missouri was not gonna get a better deal, that eliminating the prevailing wage had not been proven as an effective change anywhere.
Opponents of the legislation say that the issue is with the law, as it does not require contractors to report the wages paid to their workers, which leads to incomplete or compromised data being used to set the wage rate.
“If you don’t want to make it mandatory to report, that’s just laziness to me,” Rep. Karla May said. “This bill is not solution. All it does is drives wages down and open the door for discrimination.”
Speaking on the issue of mandatory reporting, Reps. Dan Houx and Rocky Miller spoke from their perspectives as businessmen.
“Do you know how else we end with a true wage? We get rid of prevailing wage,” Rep. Rocky Miller said.
Some argued that the requirements for reporting wages is complicated and complex, oftentimes keeping contractors from taking prevailing wage jobs or reporting wages.
Democratic Reps. Mark Ellebracht and Doug Beck argued that the reporting process wasn’t too complicated and offering up proposed solutions.
“Rather than require the reporting, we incentivize it,” Ellebracht suggested. “Imagine a General Assembly that respects an honest day’s work.”
He pointed to the state of Indiana as an example, who repealed their prevailing wage, which he said showed little change in terms of competition, but instead raised the cost of projects by $60,000. He then called for a roll call vote on the bill itself.
At 3:42 p.m., Vescovo raised the previous question, bringing the bill to a vote.
The bill was perfected with a vote of 86-63.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.