OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A Washington state lawmaker has introduced a bill to increase what is already the highest state minimum wage in the nation to $12 an hour over the next three years, but the measure faces an uphill battle in a politically divided Legislature.
Under state House Bill 2672, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jessyn Farrell, of Seattle, the rate would first increase — for workers 18 and older — from the current $9.32 an hour to $10 an hour on Jan. 1, 2015. It would increase again to $11 a year later and would hit $12 an hour on Jan. 1, 2017. After that, further annual increases would be based on inflation. More than 30 House Democrats have also signed on to the bill.
At a news conference Thursday to announce the bill, Farrell said that the measure is to meant to "promote the idea that a day's work should produce a living wage."
"The goal here is that people should be able to pay their rent, pay for child care, pay for food, without government assistance," she said.
The measure is likely to face serious resistance in the state Senate, which is controlled by a predominantly Republican majority that has expressed misgivings about any increase in the state's minimum wage and the potential impact on businesses.
Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, a Republican from Moses Lake who is chairwoman of the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee, said that the measure would not only discourage businesses from opening or expanding in the state, it could also lead business owners to potentially lay people off or hire fewer people.
"If their intent is to help those in poverty, I think it's a good intent, but I think this will do the exact opposite," she said.
The minimum wage issue has been in the political spotlight recently in the state. Voters in the airport city of SeaTac in November narrowly approved a measure granting a $15 an hour minimum wage for workers at the airport and related industries, like hotels and rental car companies. A King County Superior Court judge ruled that the law applied to about 1,600 hotel and parking lot workers in SeaTac, but not to employees and contractors working within Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is operated by the Port of Seattle.