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State senator offers minimum wage hike alternative

Andy Nguyen

A Republican in the state Senate wants to boost Michigan’s minimum wage to $8.15 an hour.

Sen. Rick Jones’ introduced the legislation Thursday, which would be an alternative to a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage.

That ballot drive would boost the rate from $7.40 an hour to $10.10 an hour. It would also eventually raise the rate for tipped workers from $2.65 to $10.10 an hour.

Jones, R-Grand Ledge, thinks that kind of increase would put many Michigan restaurants out of business.

“My intent is to stop the ballot initiative because of the crushing blow it will deal to Michigan restaurants,” said Jones. “A lot of good friends work as waiters and waitresses. A lot of them are single moms. They don’t want these jobs to go away.”

Although the motivation for the legislation is to head off an initiative championed by many Democrats, Jones’ bill seems to have some early support on both sides of the aisle.

State Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, already has a bill to increase the rate to $10 an hour. But he says he will support Jones’ plan.

“If you make $7.40 today and you make $8.15 tomorrow, you can’t call that a bad day at the office,” Johnson told reporters Thursday.

“Is it where we want to be at the end of the day? No. But, do you ever get anything that you really want out of this process, whether you’re at the (federal level), the state, the county, the city? No. So, you take what you can get, because what you can get is progress for your people.”

The biggest obstacles for the legislation will likely come from Jones’ Republican colleagues.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he does not support any measure to raise the minimum wage, including Jones’ bill.

“I think that artificially raising wages and not letting the market work is what got us into this problem to begin with,” said Richardville. “I have a lot of respect for Rick and I know what he’s trying to do, and he’s got a lot of the business community actually supporting him. The one person he doesn’t have is me, at this point.”

Even if Jones’ legislation becomes law, the ballot campaign to boost the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour could still go forward.