The Missouri House lawmakers in Jefferson City began the process to repeal the state's prevailing wage law on Tuesday. By an initial vote of 93-60, House Bill 104 says bidders on public works projects like schools, roads and county jails would no longer have to pay a set wage to workers. The measure needs a final vote in the chamber before moving to the Senate for further debate.
Republican supporters of the bill say the bill will save local governments and schools money.
Quoted in the St.Louis Post-Dispatch, Rep. Warren Love, R-Osceola, who sponsored the legislation said, "This is money that doesn't grow on trees."
Opponents of the bill, including 19 Republicans, said it will hurt working class families by driving down wages and benefits. Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said the change will allow out of state companies who pay their employees lower wages to undercut Missouri contractors.
Love rejected the concerns. “It’s not the end of the world. There are 21 states in the United States that do not have prevailing wage,” Love said.
Prevailing wage rates vary by county. In St. Louis County, for example, a carpenter receives $36.98 an hour, while in Boone County in mid-Missouri, the same job would pay $25.16 an hour. Missouri's general minimum wage is $7.70 per hour.
Missouri Governor Eric Greitens already has signed a separate bill making Missouri a right-to-work state in which mandatory union fees will be prohibited in new workplace contracts starting on Aug. 28. Similar right-to-work laws have been enacted in recent years in Kentucky, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.
A second House vote is needed to send the Missouri prevailing-wage repeal to the Senate .