Bill offers special treatment to Michigan workers

NBC25's Dan Armstrong interviews State Representative Charles Brunner about the issues surrounding Hire Michigan First

Tuesday, Bay City's former mayor and newest state representative Charles Brunner will introduce a bill he says will get Michigan residents back to work.

It's called Hire Michigan First.

It would give priority to Michigan workers for projects that use tax incentives.

Some say, it would be a state stimulus package.

Others say it would be a job-killer.

State Representative Charles Brunner says, "Hire Michigan First plan will put people back to work right now by making sure that Michigan workers come first."

Stacy Erwin Oakes, who represents the 95th District says, "Right now, businesses with contracts to build state buildings only have to hire 50% of its workers as Michigan workers. That's ridiculous. Our plan increases that to 100%."

One by one, supporters of Hire Michigan First tout what they say are advantages of the program at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 692 Hall in Bay City. They say it gives Michigan workers first crack at jobs funded by tax incentives.

"Three billion dollars worth of tax incentives, that's all we want is if there are Michigan workers available to do the work, we're saying let's put them to work. Those are tax dollars in the first place," says Brunner.

Some disagree.

"You're just going to raise the cost of providing jobs and investment in Michigan," says Michael LaFaive, director of fiscal policy at Midland's Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

LaFaive says forcing businesses to hire certain workers, especially those with a prevailing wage, would artificially drive the cost of doing business up and drive development out of the state.

"We know that prevailing wage adds 15% to 20% to the cost of constructing new school buildings for instance. I think superintendents should be the first to call for a repeal of the prevailing wage acts so we don't have to deal with the type legislation we're talking about today at all and local school districts can save 15% on construction of their buildings," says LaFaive.

Supporters say it would decrease unemployment in the state and have a positive economic ripple effect.

"This package is pro-business, quite frankly, because those individuals who receive the benefit of jobs, what do they do? They patronize the businesses that are in our community," says Woodrow Stanley, Representative of the 34th District.

Opponents call it a labor bill benefiting unions rather than the free market.

Supporters say, politics have nothing to do with it.

Hire Michigan First is a package made up of twelve bills.

Proposals like these have passed the Michigan House in the past but failed to pass the Senate.