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House committee could vote on minimum wage bill soon

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There could be a vote this week on a bill to increase Michigan’s minimum wage – even though almost no one is happy with what the legislation would do.

The measure would boost Michigan’s minimum wage to $9.20 an hour, but potentially short-circuit a petition drive to raise it even higher – to $10.10 and index it to inflation. The bill cleared the state Senate last week, and hearings just opened before the House Government Operations Committee.

Business groups are in a bind. They don’t like the petition drive, but see the Senate bill as barely an improvement.

James Hallan is with the Michigan Retailers Association. He says a lot of businesses would like to see the government step away from setting wage floors.

“We believe in a free marketplace where wages are based on the value of the employee and the profitability the business, and not set by government regulation,” he said.

State Representative Peter Lund, R-Shelby Township, chairs the House Government Operations Committee. He says a lot of Republican lawmakers don’t like the petition drive, but they’re not thrilled about voting for a big boost in a wage floor, either.

“I think the most problematic part is still the idea of finding something that the business community believes is good for the economy and that our members believe is good for the economy.”

And many supporters of a minimum wage hike say they’d rather see the question of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour – including tipped workers – go to the ballot in November.               

Tom Moran circulated petitions for that campaign. He urged the state House panel to reject the bill.

“Do not pass this anti-democratic bill. It will deepen peoples’ cynicism of our elected officials. It will show that you do not trust the voters to make the right decision. Let us vote on the initiative this November. Let us vote.”

The Raise Michigan campaign still intends to turn in its signatures before the May 28 deadline. Once those are certified, it would be up to the Legislature to approve the law or it goes to the November ballot. The Senate bill attempts to use a little political sleight of hand to circumvent that by repealing the current minimum wage law that would be amended by the ballot drive and replacing it with another law.  

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.