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Democrats get most of what they wanted on minimum wage; Republicans get the credit

Jack Lessenberry

There are several things to note about the astonishing developments yesterday in the battle over the minimum wage. Most importantly, it is important to remember that it ain’t over till it’s over.

The state Senate took everyone by surprise yesterday when Republicans agreed to gradually raise the minimum wage by nearly$2 an hour and partly index it to the inflation rate.

Barely a week ago, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville was adamantly claiming he wanted absolutely no rise in the present state minimum wage of $7.40 an hour.

Then, he introduced a bill that would have increased it to by 75 cents an hour, but one that contained a poison pill. His bill would have not only changed the rate, but would have repealed and replaced the old statute.

There’s a reason for that. There’s petition drive to change the old law and raise the minimum to $10.10 an hour.

Richardville reasoned this would short-circuit the petition drive. You can’t amend a law that doesn’t exist. But there were dangers for Republicans in that approach, too. It is pretty clear there is considerable sentiment for raising the minimum wage.

And after the enactment of right to work and a pension tax, this would have been one more indication that the governor and Legislature are against the working class and even the middle class.

The last thing Republicans want are hundreds of thousands of angry voters determined to get even. So Richardville came up with what looks like a brilliant compromise. It resulted in an unlikely front-page photograph today of Richardville and Mark Schauer, the Democratic candidate for governor, looking like best buddies.

As things stand now, Democrats have gotten most of what they wanted on minimum wage. Republicans, the political credit.

But once again, it ain’t over till it is over.

The House of Representatives hasn’t even taken up this bill. So far, the most strident voice against a minimum wage hike has been that of Ari Adler, spokesperson for Speaker of the House Jase Bolger. Yesterday, he said that his boss has “grave concerns,” about the Senate bill. He added: “We will not make any decisions about what to do … until we have a chance to get a better understanding of the potential negative impact of this proposal on Michigan’s working families and job providers.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Of course, Adler is just a mouthpiece, and Speaker Bolger could change his mind just as quickly as Richardville did.

Or the House may well try to roll back the increase to something much less, or even kill it entirely. There are also indications that those behind the petition drive aren’t going to meekly accept they are off the ballot, no matter what.

This may all end up in court.

For this part, the governor has been sphinxlike about where he stands. So to summarize, right now, the GOP is ahead on points. But this battle is by no means done. And a long and bitter fight might be the last thing Gov. Snyder and the Republicans need.