Following on the heels of Governor Jay Inslee's State of the State call to raise Washington's minimum wage, Representative Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle) has introduced a bill to do exactly that. HB 2672 would raise the state minimum wage to $12 an hour in three increments—to $10 an hour in 2015, to $11 an hour in 2016, and to $12 and hour in 2017, after which it would be indexed to inflation.
Washington's current inflation-indexed minimum wage of $9.32 an hour is already on pace to exceed $10 an hour by 2017, so the actual net increase on final phase-in would be less than $2 an hour. But that's not nothing to the half-million or so Washingtonians who see their wages go up. It's also arguably good for the economy and good for taxpayers.
“If families have more money in their pocket, it lessens the demand for government assistance," Farrell explained in a press release. "That saves all of us money.”
In a prepared statement, Governor Inslee seemed to welcome Farrell's proposal:
“Too many hard-working men and women in Washington are falling further behind, impacting not just the prospects for those workers and their families but the prosperity of our state as well. That’s why I called on legislators to join me in this conversation and I want to thank the House Majority for putting forth a common sense plan for providing a fair wage for more Washingtonians.”
No, I don't expect this bill to pass this session because I don't expect anything to pass this session. But it is important to keep this conversation moving forward. That's how stuff ultimately gets done.
As to why $12 instead of $15, well, I'd rather raise the wage floor as high as possible, but there is a strong argument to make that since everything is more expensive here in Seattle than throughout much of the rest of the state, so too should our minimum wage. So I'm comfortable with there being some level of disparity.
Also, as I wrote after Inslee's State of the State address, any increase in the state minimum wage makes it easier to raise the minimum wage here in Seattle. Whether or not you buy into the argument that a $15 minimum wage would put Seattle at a competitive disadvantage compared to surrounding communities, even the mere prospect of a higher state wage helps undermine that argument. This bill is good for Seattle, even if it ultimately doesn't directly impact our minimum wage workers.
So kudos to Farrell and her 31 Democratic co-sponsors.