Politics blog

Inslee says he may raise minimum wage himself

Staff writerFebruary 21, 2014 

Inslee Proposals

In a Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 file photo, Gov. Jay Inslee speaks during the annual State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature in the House chambers, in Olympia, Wash.

ELAINE THOMPSON — Associated Press

Gov. Jay Inslee is considering ways he could raise the minimum wage for state employees – even as legislation to raise pay for all Washington workers is stalling in the Legislature.  The governor first remarked on his intentions outside the White House on Friday morning, according to this post by the Seattle Times’ Kyung M. Song

Inslee, a Democrat, expanded on the issue later in a telephone interview with roughly a dozen Northwest reporters from Washington, D.C., saying his own administration has just started analyzing how it could raise the minimum wage for state employees and contractors.

“It’s going to be months” before anything is done on it, Inslee said, noting that he is continuing to talk to legislators about the larger issue of raising the minimum wage by up to $2.50 an hour, which he hopes will still advance in the 60-day legislative session that ends March 13. “Given the make-up of the state Senate, you can’t be optimistic it is going to pass the state Senate this year,’’ Inslee said.

Although Inslee thinks he could raise the minimum wage for contractors and employees by executive order, he said “ultimately you’d need a way to finance that.’’ 

A fiscal analysis attached to the minimum-wage bill introduced in the state House does show there are costs associated with raising the state’s $9.32 an hour minimum wage in three steps to $10 in January 2015, $11 in 2016 and $12 in 2017. Some state employee jobs have pay scales that begin below the minimum wage that would take effect in future years under the bill, but how many jobs would immediately be affected is uncertain.

But a $10 minimum wage could add $240,000 in costs to higher education institutions next year, with another $404,000 for student employees. Another $141,000 impact on K-12 schools is estimated at the $10 per hour level, and $558,000 is estimated for some Department of Social and Health Services vendors and workers who provide care in nursing facilities and to the developmentally disabled.

Costs go into the low millions of dollars in future years as the wage climbs to $12, including potential impacts on bargained home care wages.

On the other hand, a higher minimum wage would reduce some state costs by lowering the number of people eligible for Temporary Aid for Needy Families, or welfare benefits.

House Bill 2672 was heard in two House committees but remained in Appropriations after the Feb. 11 cutoff for not fiscal bills. It is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Jessyn Farrell of Seattle.

 

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