Fight for higher minimum wage fought in Seattle, Olympia

KIRO-TVFebruary 18, 2014 

Seattle Swearing-In

Signs supporting a $15 minimum wage are held up at an inaugural event for new Seattle City Council members, city attorney and mayor Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Seattle. Sawant is a Socialist. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

ELAINE THOMPSON — AP

Protesters convened in Olympia Monday as time may be running out to pass a higher minimum wage. The protests were aimed at Republicans, but the plan is struggling with Democrats as well.

A group of 30 protestors organized by Washington Community Action Network visited the offices of Republican Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, who chairs the Commerce and Labor Committee. She opposes the Democratic plan to raise the state minimum wage from $9.32 to $12 an hour over the next 3 years.

“Unfortunately the major driver of poverty is that these individuals do not have jobs at all. So mandating a high minimum wage isn't going to do anything to lift those folks out of poverty,” said Holmquist Newbry in an interview.

The minimum wage proposal was launched by majority Democrats in the House, which still hasn’t passed it. Time in running short because most bills have to pass either the House or the Senate by 5 p.m. Tuesday to stay alive in this session. “I think they should be looking at your House of Representatives members at this point,” Holmquist Newbry said.

Seattle Democrat Jessyn Farrell is the prime sponsor of the minimum wage bill. “We are now desperately trying to keep the bill through the house process,” she said in an interview. While many Democrats support a higher minimum wage, Democrats worry it could add a huge cost to the state budget because there are many workers who don’t make $12 an hour.

“There are state employees who make minimum wage and this would have a fiscal impact so this bill is getting caught in the broader policy implications of all the other things that we need to do,” such as court-ordered spending on education, Farrell said.

Ironically, the budget implications of the higher minimum wage may give it additional time to pass. Bills with budget implications are exempt from Tuesday's deadline.

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