LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer on Wednesday said Michigan's $600-per-child tax credit should be restored and businesses with more than 50 employees should provide 40 hours of paid sick leave a year.
The former congressman unveiled the proposals and others while outlining his economic priorities for women and families, which include ensuring "equal pay for equal work" and establishing stronger job protections for pregnant women such as letting them transfer to less strenuous work with a doctor's recommendation.
"Michigan women drive Michigan's economy. That's why I'm running for governor — to make Michigan's economy work for women and their families and not just the wealthy," Schauer said outside the Michigan Women's Historical Center and Hall of Fame in Lansing, where he was joined by running mate Lisa Brown, abortion-rights groups, nurses and female elected Democrats.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's campaign dismissed the event as a "political stunt" and said women recognize an improved economy under Snyder's watch. State Republican Party spokesman Darren Littell drew attention to Brown being accused of firing a legislative aide in 2009 because the staffer was pregnant.
Brown, a former state representative who is now Oakland County's clerk, sued Ericah Caughey for defamation last year after she appeared in TV ads and videos opposing Brown's clerk candidacy. Brown's lawsuit said Caughey "invented" the story of being discriminated against because of her pregnancy, and Schauer spokeswoman Cathy Cunningham said Wednesday that Internet videos in which Caughey appeared were taken down after Brown sued.
The suit has since been dropped.
Schauer's strategy of wooing women voters mirrors what Democrats recently have emphasized nationally — pay equity and family leave issues — in an attempt to turn out women, who are increasingly important to Democrats' election hopes.
The $600-per-child income tax deduction was eliminated in 2011 by Snyder and GOP lawmakers to help replace lost revenue from a business tax overhaul. Schauer declined to say if or how he would replenish the $57 million that state government would lose if the tax break is reinstated, saying it's not a "big cost item" in the state budget.
"It will put more money in families' pockets to spend on things like gas and groceries and school supplies and clothing and diapers for their kids," Schauer said.
The Republican Governors Association is running a TV ad accusing Schauer of supporting tax hikes more than 40 times when he was a state legislator.
Some of Schauer's proposals — such as paid sick time and bringing back the child tax deduction — were proposed by Democrats in the GOP-controlled Legislature but were unsuccessful.
Snyder spokeswoman Emily Benavides said under the governor's watch, Michigan has the sixth-best entrepreneurial climate in the U.S., 250,000 additional private-sector jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in six years. Almost 4,000 more women are running small businesses since he took office, she said.
"That's what everybody cares about at the end of the day — jobs and the economy," Benavides said.
Also Wednesday, Schauer confirmed to reporters that he voted in the state's 2012 Republican presidential primary.
Schauer said there wasn't a Democratic presidential primary and he doesn't like to miss "any elections." He declined to say whom he voted for.
Eventual GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney narrowly defeated ex-Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum in Michigan. Republican spokesman Littell said Schauer intentionally undermined the voting process and is "speaking out of both sides of his mouth."
The GOP secretly videotaped Schauer telling supporters earlier this year that they shouldn't cross over to vote in the 11th congressional district primary "especially when there are things at stake on our side of the ballot."