May 27, 2014 at 1:00 am

Snyder signs bill raising Michigan's minimum wage to $9.25

Lansing— The Republican-controlled Legislature moved rapidly Tuesday to boost Michigan’s minimum wage 25 percent, to $9.25 an hour by 2018, and short-circuit a possible election issue in November, and Gov. Rick Snyder quickly signed it into law.

The House voted 76-34 and the Senate voted 24-12 late Tuesday afternoon to raise the state’s current $7.40 minimum in four stages. The first boost, to $8.15 an hour, would take effect in September, then up to $8.50 at the beginning of 2016, $8.90 in 2017 and $9.25 in 2018.

It applies to workers 18 and older; younger workers will get 85 percent of the new minimums.

Snyder said the bill represents a compromise and responsibly raises the wage.

“I commend my partners in the Legislature for finding common ground on a bill that will help Michigan workers and protect our state’s growing economy,” Snyder said.

Supporters say the new wage could mean more money in the pockets of 1 million Michiganians.

After signing the bill, Snyder was expected to depart for the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island on Tuesday evening, said spokeswoman Sara Wurfel.

Snyder dodged questions at a news conference Tuesday about the impact of fast legislative action on a $10.10 minimum wage ballot proposition.

His opponent for re-election, Democrat Mark Schauer, said in an interview that he was “glad the Republicans have figured out (the minimum wage) is a significant issue and essentially adopted my plan.

“It’s unfortunate it took the Republicans six months to act,” he said.

“The Legislature saw the handwriting on the wall.”

Raise Michigan, the group pushing that plan, said it still intends to turn in enough signatures today to qualify it for the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

Raise Michigan volunteer signature collectors were pleased to be given credit for passage of Michigan’s first minimum wage boost in eight years, as majority Republican lawmakers sought to avoid having voters approve the higher rate.

The bill, which eliminates the 1964 minimum wage law and replaces it with a new one, appears to short-circuit Raise Michigan’s ballot campaign.

Supporters of the bill say because the ballot proposal changes existing law — which will be replaced by the new law upon Snyder’s signature — the Raise Michigan proposal will be moot.

That’s why Sen. Morris Hood, D-Detroit, voted against the legislation and made the only floor speech in the Senate following the vote. “This circumvents their right to put it on the ballot,” he said.

Rep. Jeff Farrington, R-Utica, who led a House compromise that passed Tuesday, called the effort “truly bipartisan” and said it provides fair wage increases without devastating small businesses.

“I saw the $10.10 (minimum wage) as wrecking the economy,” Farrington said. “(And) everything I saw said it would pass.”

House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills called the new minimum wage schedule “a huge win for Michigan’s working families.”

Tipped workers, who rely mostly on gratuities, will get 38 percent of the new rates. Their $2.65 an hour minimum gradually would roll up to $3.52 by 2018.

In a way, tipped workers already are guaranteed the regular minimum wage. If a food server’s lower minimum wage plus tips fails to average the current $7.40 an hour, a restaurant owner must make up the difference.

Raise Michigan’s $10.10 minimum wage plan also would apply to tipped workers. The Michigan Restaurant Association warned that such a huge increase would drive many out of business.

“Most of those businesses operate on a very thin margin,” said Farrington, who has owned a smaller business.

Starting in 2019, annual increases will be linked to the lesser of a rolling five-year average boost in the Midwest consumer price index, or 3.5 percent. The Midwest average has been around 2.6 percent, according to the chief House architect of the compromise.

Michigan is the first state with a Republican-led Legislature to raise its minimum wage this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota and West Virginia have raised their minimum wages, as well as the District of Columbia. Vermont’s legislature has passed an increase but it has yet to be signed by the governor.
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Staff Writer Chad Livengood contributed.