Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

June 7, 2014

Another View: Minimum wage compromise worth cheering about

For a few hours it looked like retrograde Republicans in the state House had figured out how to kill a bipartisan compromise designed to improve the lot of Michigan’s working families.

But cooler heads prevailed, and the result was a minimum-wage bill that gives both parties something to cheer about.

We didn’t think much of Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville’s proposal to boost Michigan’s $7.40-an-hour minimum wage when he unveiled it a couple of weeks ago. Combining a paltry three-year, 75-cent hike with some procedural sleight-of-hand calculated to knock a more generous minimum-wage proposal off the November ballot, Richardville’s opening gambit struck us as a cynical power play, one that effectively stripped voters of their constitutional right to bypass legislators insensitive to their constituents’ priorities.

But we were pleasantly surprised when the Senate disgorged a compromise bill that would raise the minimum wage to $9.20 by 2017 — two-thirds of the $2.70 hike sought by champions of the ballot proposal.

The compromise captured the support of 10 Democratic state senators, enough to guarantee its passage by an unusual 24-12 bipartisan majority.

For once, the Senate was doing what voters have repeatedly implored their elected representatives in Lansing to do: rise above partisan gridlock to deliver progress on important economic issues.

Then, on Tuesday, the Republican-led House Government Operations Committee weighed in with its own minimum-wage bill, a deal-buster calculated to nip the Senate’s bipartisan initiative in the bud.

Like the Senate-passed bill, the Government Operations Committee’s version would have replaced, rather than amended, Michigan’s existing minimum-wage statute — a strategy whose only purpose is to render Raise Michigan’s $10.10 ballot initiative moot by repealing the law that the initiative seeks to amend.

But instead of ameliorating that insult to voters with a substantial minimum-wage hike, the committee bill would have slashed the increase to just $1.10 an hour over three years. It also stripped out the annual inflation adjustment that state senators had preserved in their compromise bill.

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