With a proposed increase in the federal minimum wage stuck on Capitol Hill, unable to overcome fierce Republican opposition, attention has turned to states, where there’s been all kinds of recent activity – including one new wage hike in an unlikely location.
Proponents of an increase have had quite a bit of success of late, but only in blue states: Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, and Minnesota have each acted on their own to raise their respective state minimum wages, and we’ve seen similar action in Delaware, Vermont, and even West Virginia, where Democrats are in the majority.
But yesterday brought an exception to the rule. Michigan, with a Republican-led legislature and a Republican governor, also passed a wage hike, though this one comes with an interesting twist.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed a bill to hike the minimum wage in the state to $9.25 over the next four years after the Republican-led legislature gave its stamp of approval. […]“This was a great exercise in bipartisanship and both chambers working together in close partnership, coming up with an agreement and executing on that,” Snyder said, according to the AP. “It’s good for the hard-working people of Michigan.”
That certainly sounds nice. Indeed, just as impressive was the fact that state policymakers acted with remarkable speed: it took one day to reach a compromise, and once a deal was in place, “it passed both the House and the Senate and was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder in less than one hour.”
And if you’re thinking, “There has to be catch,” you’re right. Michigan Republicans became the only GOP majority in the nation to pass a minimum-wage increase, not because they love the idea, and not because they were responding to public demand, but actually to prevent a larger wage increase in the fall.
The Detroit Free Press explained:
The quick passage came so the bill can become law before a group pushing for a $10.10 minimum wage turns in its signatures to get that rate on the November ballot. The Raise Michigan coalitions, which spearheaded the petition drive, still plans to turn more than 300,000 signatures into the Secretary of State on Wednesday. But the petitions become moot because the law the initiative is trying to change was repealed by the Legislature today.“I’m going to support this with a heavy heart. I don’t believe the government has a place in adjusting wages in our society,” said state Rep. Pete Pettalia, R-Presque Isle. “But the alternative is terrible.”
Progressive activists have been working diligently to get a proposed increase to the minimum wage onto the statewide ballot in November. By all appearances, they’d succeeded in collecting more than enough ballot signatures – which were going to be turned in to state officials today.
The right considered this plainly unacceptable. Voters would likely approve a $10.10 minimum wage, and in the process, create a powerful incentive for working people to show up and vote. And with Michigan home to two competitive statewide races this year – a U.S. Senate race and a gubernatorial contest – the last thing Republicans wanted was a ballot measure that might boost voter turnout.
So, they acted quickly to quash the progressive effort and kill the petition drive. It meant Republicans approving a wage increase, but a smaller one, and one that will keep the popular issue off the ballot in the fall.
It was one of those bizarre incidents in which we saw many minimum-wage opponents voting for an increase and minimum-wage supporters voting against it.
“This was a great exercise in bipartisanship”? Well, not exactly.