Minimum Wage Increase Petition Okayed

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A group called "Raise Michigan" is asking voters to give those making the least in the state a raise. The group want workers to make $10.10 an hour by 2017.

Wednesday the State Board of Canvassers approved the language for the proposal--meaning if enough people sign a petition, it can go on the state ballot.

"The simple fact of the matter is at $7.40 an hour or $290 a week, you can't pay for your housing, you can't pay for your food. You can't keep up with day-to-day living expenses. No one can," said Frank Houston, the spokesperson for the Raise Michigan Campaign.

The group believes the initiative will help a million workers in the state pay their bills.

If approved, starting January 1, 2015 Michigan's minimum wage would go to $8.10 an hour, $9.10 by 2016 and then $10.10 by 2017. Houston says all those people making and spending that extra $2.70 an hour will improve the economy.

"There's no statistical evidence that raising minimum wage kills jobs," said Houston. "There just simply hasn't been. Every time we raise minimum wage at most there's a short blip and then it quickly recovers and then actually what's usually shown is more economic activity, people spend more money locally, and your GDP raises."

But state business organizations are strongly against an increase. They say the government shouldn't tell them how much to pay their workers.

"We don't believe in tooth fairy economics. We don't think you can simply wave a magic wand and make more revenues appear to pay for an increase of this size," said Wendy Block, of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

"The majority of employers are doing their very best to provide the very best wage that they can to their worker," said Block. "They may hire them as a minimum-wage worker but they are going to find opportunities to increase their wage as time goes by."

Businesses associations say it will cost jobs and hurt the economy.

"Not only are we talking about slowing the economy and jobs actually being lost, but we are talking about actual mom and pop shops shutting their doors permanently. I think that has a real affect on some communities," said Justin Winslow, of the Michigan Restaurant Association.

"The fact is, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Restaurant Association--there is no minimum wage that they would support," said Houston.

But is that true? We asked the question.

"At this point our members have not indicated that they would support a government mandated increase in Michigan's minimum wage. No," said Block who works for the Chamber of Commerce.

"If a proposal is out there, an alternative to this one--we would look at it," said Winslow. "We are obviously concerned, not just with the overall minimum wage but for us, the tip-minimum wage is the most serious issue."

Restaurants have even more at stake in this. Currently they are required to pay their workers $2.65 an hour as long as their employees earn enough money in tips to make the minimum wage. If the initiative becomes law, restaurants would have to pay their workers 85 cents an hour more each year until servers wages matched the minimum wage. That would make tips a bonus.

Additionally, every year after 2017, the minimum wage would automatically increase with the rate of inflation as set by the consumer price index.

The Raise Michigan coalition needs to collect 258,000 signatures by May 28th to get on the November ballot. The organization says it will have 350,000 signatures by that time.

If successful, lawmakers would have a chance to approve it. If not, the measure would go on the November ballot.

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