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Michael Medved

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Should Washington state look at a regional minimum wage?

(AP)

In 2016, Washington voters approved a measure to significantly raise the state’s minimum wage in increments spread across six years. But the minimum wage that works for a metropolitan area like Seattle might not be what’s best for smaller, rural areas, argues state Rep. Skyler Rude.

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“Laws that are passed typically tend to be one size fits all,” Rude told KTTH’s Jason Rantz. Rude represents Washington’s 16th Legislative District. “If I were to go house shopping in Seattle, I’d be spending $500,000, $600,000. For the same property, that’d be $150,000 to $250,000 in my area.”

That being so, a minimum wage that fits a city with a high cost of living like Seattle doesn’t necessarily fit somewhere like Walla Wall, the largest city in Rude’s district.

“When the cost of living is significantly lower, the dollar goes a lot farther — retaining employees becomes difficult when you have that wage issue,” he noted.

What he’s proposing as a fix for this would involve a different minimum wage for counties that factors in things like population density, cost of living, and more. A plan like that isn’t entirely foreign to the Pacific Northwest either.

Right now, Oregon’s minimum wage varies across three sectors of the state: Portland Metro, Standard, and Nonurban Counties.

Portland Metro’s minimum hourly wage checks in at the highest at $12, followed by Standard at $10.75, and then Nonurban at $10.50. The goal by 2022 is to have the three areas up to $14.75, $13.50, and $12.50 an hour respectively.

Before a system like that for Washington even gets proposed in a bill, though, Rude wants to be sure due diligence is done first.

“I would do a study — I think it’s important to look at it and be thoughtful in our approach to this, [and] figure out what geographic areas we’d be using,” he said.

That’s a process that Rude estimates could take “potentially a year or two,” but also one he hopes will help figure out just how the state’s minimum wage should be properly allocated.

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