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A soccer field for the Nahed Chapman school

Millstone Weber construction workers (from left to right) Joe Baecht, laborer, James Dixon, superintendent, and Mark Rice, operator, work on a lot which will eventually be turned into a soccer field at the Nahed Chapman school in St. Louis on Wednesday, July 6, 2016. Photo by Cristina M. Fletes, cfletes@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY • Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, endorsed on Friday a plan to change Missouri’s prevailing wage law.

At a bill signing ceremony in his office, Parson gave his approval to a plan altering how wages are calculated on government construction projects.

Currently, local governments such as schools, municipalities and counties must pay a set wage for various maintenance and construction jobs. The amount, which is higher than the minimum wage, varies from county to county.

The changes would affect only projects that cost more than $75,000.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Justus, R-Branson, said the change would help smaller, rural school districts, cities and counties by lowering the cost of certain construction and maintenance projects.

“Listening to county commissions and city officials and some school officials all across the state, they had examples of how public projects were much more expensive under the old law,” Justus said. “This will help the taxpayers.”

Republicans have sought to eliminate the state’s prevailing wage laws, arguing that they artificially inflate the cost of government construction projects.

But Democrats say it results in better trained employees’ working on public works projects. Among those affected are bricklayers, masons, ironworkers and electricians.

Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, said she had worked on a compromise for over a year.

“I did not vote for the bill, but it is much better than full repeal,” Walsh said Friday.

She said full repeal could have been harmful to contractors who build their business models on current state labor law.

In addition to the $75,000 threshold, the new law bars governmental units from dividing a project into multiple contracts for the purpose of lowering the total project cost below the cap.

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Kurt Erickson is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch