Conversation divided on whether prevailing wage helps or hurts Missouri workers

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BRANSON NEWS: JEFFERSON CITY — Some county commissioners and public officials say their communities face barriers to building schools, county courthouses, police stations and fire departments because of Missouri’s prevailing wage law.Supporters of prevailing wage say that eliminating it would mean lower pay for Missouri workers and fewer highly-skilled laborers working on public works projects.Prevailing wage is the minimum amount of money workers on public works construction projects must be paid. The Division of Labor Standards conducts surveys that track the number of hours worked across the state by each job title for their different wage rate. The rate is supposed to reflect wages in individual counties.

Some state lawmakers are questioning whether prevailing wage is an efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Some county commissioners and public officials say they’ve had projects initially estimated at a specific cost, but after prevailing wage is factored in, the ultimate price increases. This can lead to scaling back on projects to save money.Rep. Jeffery Justus, R-Branson, Rep. Warren Love, R-Osceola and Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston are among several lawmakers proposing legislation that would repeal prevailing wage laws. Nearly 20 such bills have been introduced this year. “Teachers painting the classroom because they can’t afford painting contractors. Why? Because of prevailing wage,” Justus said. “The city of Branson building two new fire departments, new fire houses and a police station, estimating over 20 percent cost increase because of prevailing wage.”During a recent news conference, Gov. Eric Greitens was asked about his support of making changes to prevailing wage law. He said, “I think that it’s really important in the state of Missouri that we’re not penalizing county court houses, that we’re not penalizing schools, that we’re not penalizing institutions and forcing them to pay more than market rate for …

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