Gov. Eric Greitens called for a repeal of Missouri’s prevailing wage law upon taking office last year, and while the House passed a repeal bill in 2017, the measure didn’t advance in the Senate. However, some lawmakers are renewing the effort to address the issue in 2018 with a variety of proposals, ranging from specific reforms to full repeal.
Currently, the law requires that contractors pay a state-specified minimum wage for public works projects. These rates—which vary by county and job—are calculated by the Missouri Department of Labor and based on an annual survey of wage rates and hours worked. However, many independent contractors don’t fill out the survey, while labor unions do, so there is skepticism about whether the state-set rates accurately reflect each local labor market. Instead, the law drives up the costs of public works projects and limits competition for these contracts.
In January, a Missouri Senate committee heard from both supporters and opponents as they considered four different bills that would deal with the law. Now, a new compromise bill is in the mix. Under the proposal, sponsored by Sen. Gary Romine:
- Only contractors would be able to report hours worked/wages paid to the state, and unions and trade associations would be prohibited from doing so.
- The number of workers who are paid the prevailing wage rate while they’re training apprentices would be reduced from three to one.
- Contractors in each county would be required to report at least 300 hours per year to the state, or prevailing wage requirements wouldn’t apply in that county.
- Projects would have to cost at least $25,000 before prevailing wage requirements kick in, which helps protect small, rural projects from inflated wage requirements.
The fate of Romine’s bill is unclear at this writing, but the Senate Committee on General Laws has advanced two other reform bills to the Senate floor in the meantime. One would get rid of the requirement that separate average wages be created for different occupations and exempt projects that cost less than $500,000; another would fully repeal the current law.