The state’s minimum wage would go up for some workers and down for others under proposals moving through the Legislature this week.
It would go up to $12 an hour by 2017 for all hourly workers under a proposal approved Wednesday by the Democratic-controlled House Labor and Work Force Development Committee. It would be at least $15 an hour for school employees under a separate proposal the committee passed.
It would go down to as low as $7.25 an hour for teenagers under a proposal approved by the Republican-controlled Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
Washington’s minimum wage, currently at $9.32 an hour and adjusted every year based on cost of living because of a voter-passed initiative, is the highest minimum wage in the country. But that doesn’t keep it out of the political debate over income inequality, and minimum wage is getting maximum exposure this winter in the state.
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Voters in SeaTac raised the minimum in their city to $15 an hour — what some call a livable wage — in last November’s election, although the courts have scaled back where that pay floor must be applied. Seattle’s new mayor, former state Sen. Ed Murray, has called for a similar bump to the minimum wage in that city. Gov. Jay Inslee, in his State of the State address, called for an unspecified increase — somewhere between $1.50 and $2.50.
House Democrats were happy to quantify the bump with HB 2672, which would raise it to $10 next Jan. 1, $11 a year later and $12 on Jan. 1, 2017.
The committee passed the proposal, and another to set a minimum of $15 per hour for all school employees, on partisan 5-4 votes. That bill comes with a price tag of $54 million, and Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, pointed out the state wasn’t promising to give local school districts the money to cover it. Sells agreed it was something the state must pay for, but said the committee was just setting the policy and leaving it to the Appropriations Committee to come up with the money.
The Senate, meanwhile, moved forward a proposal to lower the minimum wage for teenagers to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour between June 1 and Aug. 31.