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Jan
2015
21

Snyder Will Veto Prevailing Wage Repeal; Mackinac, Assoc. Builders & Contractors Double Down

Rick Snyder

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As Republicans in the Michigan legislature prepare to introduce a package of bills that would repeal the prevailing wage for school and government facility construction, they have encountered an immovable force: Republican Governor Rick Snyder.  On Thursday, Snyder came out in support of the prevailing wage saying that he opposed the Republican agenda of repeal. “It’s not something I supported in the first four years as governor, and I don’t intend to change my position on that,” Snyder asserted.

Snyder further explained his support of prevailing wages, saying: “If you talk to contractors in the construction trades that are building our roads and such they think they’ve had a successful relationship with the people, the skilled trades doing that work.”

The man leading the movement to repeal the prevailing wage is Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive).  Just days after the November election, Meekhof signaled his intention to take down the prevailing wage, and on Tuesday his now-doomed plan will progress, when the bill goes before the state senate as SB 1.  A similar bill will hit the floor of the house.  Commence inter-party showdown in Michigan.

Some critics believe the party does not need the governor to make the desired changes.  In an op-ed, the right-wing Mackinac Center for Public Policy announced that if Snyder moves forward with his veto the conservative movement will use dark money to ensure the issue goes on the ballot in the next election.  They acknowledge that such an effort would likely be supported and coordinated by the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors:

The Michigan Constitution permits a united Legislature to govern without the governor.

Within the “initiative and referendum” authority (Art. II, Sec. 9), a citizen initiated law may be sent to both chambers of the Legislature if roughly 250,000 valid signatures from Michigan voters are properly affixed to it. (The specific standard is “not less than 8 percent” of the total votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election.) If both the Senate and House vote to approve the proposal within 40 session days after it is submitted to them, then it becomes law.

The governor has no constitutional role, and can neither sign nor veto the proposal. The only check on this power is the people themselves: If the lawmakers don’t approve the proposal, then it is sent to the voters for their consideration in a statewide referendum.

Collecting several hundred thousand signatures is a difficult and usually expensive task, but if this is really a Republican priority then there are considerable financial and political resources available. There are 89 GOP lawmakers working under the Capitol dome, and every one of them and their supporters create the potential for a motivated signature collection army. In addition to this, there is a state Republican Party apparatus with both volunteers and donors, business organizations such as the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan (the major opponent of the prevailing wage law), and so forth.

Snyder is not alone among Republicans in terms of supporting quality wages for construction workers. New majority floor leader Sen. Mike Kowall told the Detroit News:

“When you talk to contractors, and it’s mostly big contractors that are affected by this, they just shake their heads and say it’s not even a factor in their decision-making,” said Kowall, R-White Lake Township. “But it does help them bring in better qualified people.”

The savings expected by proponents of eliminating prevailing wages are often inflated, Kowall said.

“I’ve heard numbers that, geez, we could cure the national debt from what people are coming up with.”

Democrats, presumably, are united in opposing the appeal.  At a time when Michigan is still rebounding from its long economic lull, it is difficult to support a wage-cutting measure. “I think we should be focusing on putting money in the pockets of Michigan workers and families, not taking it out,” Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said Thursday.

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