LANSING (AP) - Advocates of raising Michigan's minimum wage pushed back Tuesday on a competing Republican bill to raise the wage, calling the measure "trickery" and saying it would silence voters.
Representatives of the Raise Michigan coalition said a bill introduced last week by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, would undermine their push to have voters decide whether to raise the minimum wage from $7.40 to $10.10 by 2017 through a ballot initiative. The campaign has collected more than the 258,000 signatures needed for a measure to appear on the November ballot to amend current law, spokeswoman Danielle Atkinson said.
Richardville's bill would raise the minimum wage to $8.15 by repealing the existing wage law and enacting a new one, which would render the ballot initiative moot.
"Senate Republicans are trying to circumvent the process in the middle of the game to avoid an unwanted result," Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, said. "The voters deserve to be heard on this issue - it's very important. And to try to silence their voice, it's nothing but the kind of trickery that we've seen over the last couple of years."
Democrats have said changing the limit to $8.15 an hour would not help minimum-wage earners get out of poverty.
Richardville, who previously said he wouldn't support raising the minimum wage, said his bill is a proactive compromise and doesn't aim to undermine voter will. He said $8.15 is a "reasonable" target to offer at the start of negotiations.
"The people have spoken. The people say we want to look at minimum wage in Michigan," Richardville told reporters. "Great, the people that they elected said, 'Ok, we can buy that, let's have a debate about it, let's talk about it. Let's do it in a reasonable way with something that can be vetted, talked about publicly, and then make a change.'"
Raise Michigan organizers are consulting lawyers about responding to Richardville's bill, but they'll keep collecting signatures until the deadline at the end of the month, Atkinson said. Their goal is to collect 360,000 signatures.
Other proposed legislation would raise the minimum wage by changing current law, rather than repealing it. A bill by Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, would increase the wage to $8.15 and wouldn't directly affect the ballot initiative. Rep. Margaret O'Brien, R-Portage, introduced a similar bill in the House on Tuesday.