Minimum Wage Bill Likely to See Changes Before House Vote

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Lansing, Mich. (WILX) In the battle over whether the raise the state's minimum wage, the debate is just as much about how much to raise it, as it is who should be making the decision.

Should lawmakers move forward with a plan of their own, or let voters decide come November?

It's a question that came up repeatedly during a House committee hearing Wednesday on a Senate bill that would gradually raise the state's minimum wage from $7.40 to $9.20 by 2017.

Bennita Swint, who attended Wednesday's hearing--works on minimum wage while supporting three children--didn't mince words when talking about the bill that could effectively stop the minimum wage ballot initiative dead in its tracks.

"It's not fair, I feel it's a dirty little trick," she said. "I feel it's not enough to sustain families, I feel they really need to hear the voices of the people."

The Senate passed its version of the bill last week, which is designed to thwart the ballot initiative while linking wage to inflation to make more hikes possible in the future.

The bill would also raise the tipped wage from $2.65 to $3.50, a far cry from the across the board $10.10 an hour proposal from "Raise Michigan," and a more manageable pill to swallow for the restaurant industry.

"Frankly I like that the bill is called the 'workforce opportunity wage' which is what this is really all about, we're trying to make sure we still have opportunities available for people," said Justin Winslow with the Michigan Restaurant Association.

"Margins are so thin in this industry--four percent on average--I think you're still going to see some devastation, obviously not as dramatic (as with the ballot initiative) but still you'll see some economic fallout in this industry."

Committee chair Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, said a vote on an amended version of the bill could come Thursday but acknowledged there were still several issues with the Senate version.

"The most problematic part is still the idea of finding something that business community thinks is actually good for the economy and that our members believe is good for the economy," he said following the hearing.

"Our members are going listen and when they hear people saying this is going to cost jobs, that's something that's going to stand out, so we got to try and find something we think is a balance that can get the votes and still be good for the economy."

With the devil in the details, it's something supporters of the ballot initiative are still hopeful will ultimately be left up to them.

"I'm not just a something, I'm worth 10-10 an hour," Swint said.

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