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May
2015
27

Right-Wing Associated Builders and Contractors Begin Push for Prevailing Wage Ballot Initiative

PROTECT MICHIGAN TAXPAYERS

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As their quest to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law faces intra-party roadblocks, Michigan’s conservative right-wing is shifting its efforts to putting the issue on a voting ballot.  If successful, the move would effectively circumvent Gov. Rick Snyder, a vocal opponent of repeal.  

The ballot initiative is being organized by the group Protecting Michigan’s Taxpayers, which has been inactive since successfully halting a ballot initiative aimed at making collective bargaining a constitutional right in 2012.  During that campaign, the dark money group was mostly funded by Dow Chemical.  The current initiative is being heavily supported by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).  

The repeal effort, which oddly constitutes three separate but connected bills, narrowly passed the Senate earlier this month with a handful of Republicans bucking the party line.  The set of bills now awaits a committee hearing in the House where it has been difficult to precisely gauge support.  Gov. Snyder has remained steadfast, telling reporters last week:

“I’ll stand by my statement,.  I have serious problems with prevailing wage (repeal), and I think I would much rather work on skilled trades jobs in our state by partnering with the very people that would be adversely affected.”

The Michigan constitution supports veto-proof ballot initiatives. This week, the state’s Board of State Canvassers will decide on this initiative’s validity.  Protecting Michigan Taxpayers will then have 180 days to collect 252,000 signatures.

Chris Fisher, President of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan and a member of the committee, issued a catchphrase-laden statement, saying:

“This is about advancing citizen legislation and bringing forth solid policy that protects taxpayers and protects Michigan jobs.  For decades, we’ve been held back by one of the worst policies in the country. This will guarantee that the issue is taken up in 2015.”

The new “citizen legislation” strategy is uncommon but, as mentioned above, has seen some success in Michigan. In 2013, Gov. Snyder’s veto of anti-abortion legislation was countered at the voting booth.  Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel told The Washington Times that the governor will cooperate with the effort but will not support it:

“This is all part of democratic process.  The governor’s position on prevailing wage is quite clear, and that hasn’t changed. He’s going to stay very focused on emphasizing the good-paying jobs and career opportunities that the skilled trades can offer our Michiganders and positioning our state as the country’s leader in the skilled trades.”

Republican voters may be as split as the party’s representatives on the issue. In a Detroit Free Press op-ed, Irma Glaser of West Bloomfield congratulated party defectors and the Governor for their stance:

I want to congratulate my senator — Mike Kowall, R-White Lake Township — and the other four Republican senators who voted to try to stop another attack on living wages in our state. Michigan is experiencing a fragile economic recovery, with lower wages and frozen salaries that make the task of providing basic necessities harder to achieve. We need people earning enough to drive the economic engine that formerly made our state a leader in ideas, wages and standard of living.

I hope Gov. Rick Snyder will continue to express his concern about the repeal leading to depressing wages in the construction business, and the ripple effect it will have elsewhere.

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