Senate leader signs bill modifying prevailing wage

Posted May 30, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Missouri Senate Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, signed a bill on Tuesday, May 28, containing the first substantial change to prevailing wage in 40 years. House Bill 34, if signed by the governor, will modify the way prevailing wage is calculated, making it more affordable for rural Missouri communities. (Read House Bill 34 at http://www.house.mo.gov/BillSummary.aspx?bill=HB34&Year=2013&code=R.)

Sen. Dempsey was joined by Speaker of the House Tim Jones, R-Eureka, at Mother Road Coffee in Carthage Tuesday afternoon to sign the bill. Dempsey said revamping the prevailing wage law was a priority for the Senate this year.

“In many areas of Missouri, the wages required for government projects are above those paid in the private sector up to 10 times more,” said Dempsey. “These changes will help keep public projects affordable and bring more construction jobs into the state. It will encourage more bidding, promote local small businesses, and reduce the cost and financial burden to local taxpayers.”

Missouri’s prevailing wage is calculated by the Division of Labor Standards. Prevailing wage is supposed to use data on the wages paid for occupations in each county to set the rate contractors are paid on public works projects. The problem is, about 70 percent of Missouri counties don’t have any wages reported. In those cases, the system looks to collective bargaining agreements, sometimes including different states or previously reported wages, which usually inflate the rate taxpayers pay. House Bill 34 will establish a new method for calculating the prevailing wage for third and fourth class counties.

“Right now, we are paying too much for public projects, and many projects are being put on hold,” said Dempsey. “That means construction workers that would have been employed, aren’t. These modifications will bring the wages more in line with what is normally paid in the local area.”

The bill now awaits the governor’s signature before it will become law. For more on this bill and others, visit www.senate.mo.gov.