BRANSON MO NEWS: The Missouri House has officially passed a measure to tie wages for public works projects more closely with the location where the work is being done.The proposal, which is a combination of three bills from Republican representatives, would impact employees on projects for cities, school districts, and local governments. It would do away with the current “prevailing wage” policy that binds pay to wages reported by contractors.
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
A sticking point with many Republicans which represent rural districts is that contractors don’t report their wages paid, and worker pay is then skewed toward urban areas where the cost of living and wages are much higher.
GOP Representative Holly Rehder of Sikeston says public works projects in her area are threatened because worker pay is tied to St. Louis wages. “In southeast Missouri, if we’re paying $47.00 an hour for a job classification that in our area usually pays $22.00, well then that school project isn’t getting done,” said Rehder.
Proponents of the legislation, which include many cities and counties, claim the current law leads to money being siphoned from local jurisdictions to pay for high labor costs. They say it artificially raises wages and makes public works construction costs prohibitive in rural areas, leading to the abandonment or neglect of important projects.
Republican House member Jeffery Justus of Branson, the chief sponsor of the combined legislation, says local elected officials have expressed their frustration with the current law.
“The ones that are there every day who are elected to spend their taxpayers’, their constituents’ money, they’re the ones that are coming to us and saying ‘Prevailing wage costs more’,” said Justus. “And they gave example after example in the committee hearings.”
Justus admitted on the House floor that most …
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