Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class
LANSING September 15, 2015– An anti-worker organization says they have collected the required number of signatures– a mere three percent of Michigan’s registered voters– on a petition they’ve been circulating to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law.
“Protecting Michigan Taxpayers,” a group funded by the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan and west Michigan’s DeVos family, has been collecting signatures for something called a “voter initiated law.” The group spent over $1 million in this attack on middle class incomes. Now the Secretary of State’s office will review the signatures, which could take several weeks.
Sen. Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) has prioritized repealing the state’s prevailing wage since he accomplished passing “right-to-work” in 2012. And since Gov. Rick Snyder has recently come out strongly opposed to the repeal, Meekhof has turned to a little-known legislative trick called a “voter initiated law,” which allows the legislature to vote up or down on a bill that has acquired signatures from three percent of the state’s registered voters– or 252,523 signatures. With this scheme, the governor never has to sign the bill for it to become law.
From Meekhof’s website:
“Since my days as a township official, I have viewed prevailing wages laws as an unnecessary burden on our schools and local communities,” said Meekhof. “It does not make sense that our taxpayers should have to pay more for improvements to our school and municipal buildings. The extra cost of prevailing wage laws siphons money away from other community priorities.”
But despite Meekhof’s claims, repealing prevailing wage in Michigan will not ease the tax burden for Michigan residents, and it won’t shift money to other “community priorities.” In fact, by paying construction and trades workers less, and opening up bids to out-of-state labor, it will reduce Michigan’s tax base significantly– putting a greater burden on our state and communities to find funding to serve Michigan’s residents. Plus, it will open the door to lower-paid and less-skilled workers doing low-quality work on our schools, libraries and other public projects.
[The] group looking to end Michigan’s prevailing-wage law turned in enough signatures Monday to put the issue before the Legislature.
The 390,959 signatures in 44 boxes still have to go through a review with the Michigan Secretary of State to determine whether there are at least 252,523 valid signatures.
“Nearly 400,000 voters have signed their names on the dotted line to demand that government spend their tax dollars more wisely,” said Chris Fisher, vice president of Protecting Michigan Taxpayers and President of Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan. “Taxpayers’ message couldn’t be clearer — it’s time to repeal the prevailing-wage law costing our schools and communities millions.”
The prevailing-wage laws require that union-scale wages are paid on public construction projects. A similar bill passed the state Senate this year, but the state House of Representatives decided to wait to see whether the petition drive was successful before voting on a repeal.
Gov. Rick Snyder has opposed the repeal because he feels it would hamper one of his key agenda items: boosting the number of skilled trade workers in the state.
“This is being paid for by a handful of millionaires trying to become billionaires at the expense of working men and women,” said David Waymire, spokesman for Michigan Prevails, which is opposing the prevailing-wage repeal. “Legislators who don’t want to be on the record voting for something that lowers wages of people shouldn’t vote on it, because this is all about cutting pay for working men and women.”
Citizen-initiated legislative petition drives have been used successfully six times, including with four abortion-related questions, the elimination of the single business tax and the stamp of approval on a hunt of gray wolves in the Upper Peninsula. It allows the Legislature to act on the petition and allow the issue to become law 90 days after lawmakers adjourn for the year. It is not subject to approval or veto from Snyder.
It could take several weeks for the Secretary of State to review the petitions and schedule a Board of Canvassers meeting to clear the way for the proposal to be taken up by the Legislature. If the Board of Canvassers approves the petitions, the Legislature has 40 session days to act.