Michigan Legislature Sets Stage for Policy Battle

By Scott McClallen | Originally posted on tennesseestar.com

Michigan Democrats filed bills aiming to fulfill a 40-year pending wishlist, which include restoring the prevailing wage and repealing right to work.

Other bills filed include repealing the retirement tax, boosting the earned income tax credit, and repealing the 1931 abortion ban despite a constitutional amendment voiding the law.

“House Democrats are committed to supporting Michigan families, guaranteeing the rights of all Michiganders are protected and respected, ensuring workers know they are valued, protecting and investing in our future, and promoting safe and strong communities,” House Speaker Joe Tate, D-Detroit, said in a statement. “Our commitment to make good on our promise to advance the priorities of the people is made clear with the introduction of these first bills of the session.”

In 2018, Michigan’s GOP-majority Legislature repealed the prevailing wage measure that required contractors to pay union wages on state construction projects. However, in 2021, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the Department of Technology, Management and Budget to require contractors be paid the prevailing wage on jobs worth more than $50,000.

The announcements were met with pushback from the private sector, which would pay higher costs for construction, along with the government.

The trade association Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan opposes restoring the prevailing wage. ABC Michigan CEO and President Jimmy Greene said that if the prevailing wage was restored, it would set 100,000 different wage mandates for Michigan construction.

“Usurping local control by forcing this mandate on local governments, schools, community colleges, and universities is not defendable,” Green said in a statement. “Regardless of where someone stands on the economic debate over prevailing wage requirements, nobody is seriously of the opinion that navigating 100,000 wage mandates every year makes sense. If this issue is going to be debated let’s have the thoughtful conversation that needs to take place and agree there is surely a more common-sense way to address public construction wage and benefit requirements than attacking workers and builders with 100,000 new requirements.”

Whitmer tweeted on Thursday that the bills would help Michiganders hit hard by inflation.

Her tweet read, “Michiganders are feeling the pinch with the high cost of essential goods like gas and groceries. We’re introducing new legislation that will cut costs for working families and support our seniors. We’re putting Michiganders first and getting things done!”

Michigan Freedom Fund Executive Director Sarah Anderson said the group plans to defend the right-to-work law. Enacted in 2012, the rule says nobody can be required to pay dues or fees to a union to hold a job.

“Politicians in Lansing have barely been on the job a week and they’re already declaring war on more than 150,000 Michigan workers who’ve exercised their constitutional rights over the last 10 years,” Anderson said in a statement. “Repealing right-to-work would strip working families of their rights, stifle wage growth, kill jobs, and make Michigan dramatically less attractive to new employers.”