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Kinder continues effort to drop prevailing wage for construction in Joplin

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 27, 2011 - Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder is reaffirming that he's continuing to try to suspend Missouri's prevailing wage requirement for state-subsidized projects, when it comes to rebuilding housing in Joplin, Mo., partially destroyed by a tornado in May.

More than 4,000 homes were destroyed in the May 22 disaster.

On Tuesday, Kinder was accompanied by several fellow Republicans in Missouri's General Assembly.

Earlier this month, Kinder's proposal to Missouri Housing Development Commission, on which he sits, to suspend the wage requirement failed.

The commission has agreed to commit about $100 million in tax credits and loans over the next 10 years to encourage construction of low- and moderate-income rental units and single-family homes in the Joplin area. But the panel also is requiring that workers on state-subsidized projects be paid the federal prevailing wage.

Kinder notes the action is "the first time prevailing wage requirements were added to residential construction."

Kinder says the result is that "the prevailing wage for a roofer in the Joplin area rose from $7.25 an hour to $21.30 an hour plus $8.08 in benefits" He said that builders have told him "the higher costs will reduce the number of homes they will be able to build."

Despite the commission's opposition, Kinder said the battle will continue.

According to his release:

"State Rep. Bill Lant, R-Joplin, who joined Kinder on Tuesday, said he has pre-filed a bill that would allow city councils, school boards and county commissions to suspend the prevailing wage requirement for state-funded project in their jurisdictions when a disaster has been declared.

"Our priority in Joplin must be to replace the homes that families lost in May, particularly homes for low-income families," Kinder said. "Because of the higher costs, contractors will be forced to cut back on the scale of projects for low-income housing in Joplin."

"Either you will lose numbers, or you will lose quality," Kinder added. "Joplin needs the numbers, but we also don't want to lose quality in the rebuilding."

Kinder is seeking a third term in 2012, after dropping a planned bid for governor against Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.

In recent days, Kinder has suffered a setback in his fallback position. Longtime major donor (and construction magnate) David Humphreys has given $250,000 to a Republican rival, state Sen. Brad Lager, R-Savannah, who says he sticking with his own quest for lieutenant governor.

Humphreys has abandoned Kinder -- prevailing wage or not -- over other controversies that have plagued the lieutenant governor in 2011.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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