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Oakland County commissioners divided on minimum wage proposal

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Oakland County commissioners may be getting into a big fight over paying a small number of county employees a higher minimum wage.

Commissioner Angela Powell wants to set a $15 per hour minimum wage for all full-time county employees. The change would affect about one percent of the county workforce.

“We believe full-time employees deserve to earn a livable wage,” says Powell. “And we believe Oakland County can be a leader that encourages others to join in this effort.”

Republicans on the county commission are concerned the proposal could lead to pressure being put on private businesses in the county to raise their own minimum wage.

“The question is have we opened up that door or are we beginning to go down that path,” says Republican Caucus Chair Michael Gingell. 

Gingell says the employees that would be in line for the pay raise under the proposal are already making within a few dollars of $15 per hour.  

The Democrats say the added pay would require an additional $80,000 in next year’s county budget, which they insist can be found.

That irks Oakland County ExecutiveL. Brooks Patterson.

"The naiveté of the Democratic commissioners when it comes to finance amazes me,” says Patterson. “Their promotion of such profligate spending will ultimately result in the loss of our coveted AAA bond rating.”

Democrats hold an 11 to 10 edge on the Oakland County Commission. The minimum wage proposal may be up for vote in the next few weeks.  

The Democrats may find it difficult to find enough votes among the Republican commissioners to override a veto. 

A spokesman for County Executive L. Brooks Patterson says they won't speculate on issuing a veto prior to something passing the board.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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