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Minimum wage battle has political, as well as economic ramifications

WEST MICHIGAN (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A minimum wage battle is brewing in Lansing right now, but it's not just about money, but about politics as well.

On Thursday, the State Senate passed a Republican-led bill to raise the minimum wage from $7.40 to $9.20 per hour by 2017.

The measure could jeopardize a citizen-led ballot drive to increase the wage to $10.10, which already has the signatures necessary to be placed on the November ballot.

A local political science professor says that the issue isn't just about doing what's right for citizens, but also has political ramifications.

Voters head to the polls to elect their officials with the hopes that their voices are heard.

On the other hand, 2014 is an election year so some lawmakers also need to make sure they play their cards right to get re-elected.

The minimum wage has been a long-standing battle across the country, but especially in Michigan, where it has sat at $7.40 per hour since 2008.

Now the debate is raging once again.

"The movement, here in Michigan, to raise the minimum wage is in many ways a grassroots movement more than one that's coming from the Democratic Party directly," said WMU Political Science professor John Clark.

A citizen-led initiative would put the issue before voters in November, and Clark says it's an issue many Democrats are backing.

One of the main concerns Republicans have voiced about the wage increase is the potential to hurt businesses, but the strong public support has some changing their tune.

"I do think that for Republicans who may have been opposed to raising the minimum wage in general, the bill that the Senate voted on yesterday, for many Republicans, may be a better solution than the law as it would be changed in the petition drive," Clark said.

Should the Republican version become law, that initiative would not make it to the ballot.

"Whether or not it's on the ballot is probably less important than the fact that it's getting people talking about politics," Clark said.

And that comes with the November elections just around the corner.

"There's no question that some of this is election posturing," Clark said. "Try and get on the right side of a popular issue before the election simply because they see that to be in their electoral self-interest."

We did ask Clark whether the minimum wage issue will have a big impact on elections this November.

He says it certainly energizes both sides, and could be helpful for the Democrats, who he says typically see fewer voters in a mid-term election than a general election.