Will Washington state be next to see an increase in the minimum wage? Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-46th District Lake Forest Park, Kenmore) is trying to take the momentum from the approval of a $15 minimum wage increase in Seattle and make it work in the state Legislature.
Farrell introduced HB 2672, a measure that would have increased the state's minimum wage to $12 over the next three years, at the last legislative session, and said she plans to introduce it again next session.
"It is urgent that we act in 2015 to ensure that every worker in our state is paid a fair wage for their hard work," she said in a statement.
Farrell tells KIRO Radio's Jason Rantz that the cost of living in Seattle is much higher than other areas of the state, and the $15 probably wouldn't be appropriate at this point everywhere, but she wants to see the minimum wage floor raised across the state.
"Let's try to scale the minimum wage so that it is meaningful, but certainly not extravagant, but meaningful in the sense that people can actually pay for those important basic necessities," she said.
"In Washington state, if you work full time at $9.32 an hour, you are still eligible for food stamps," said Farrell. "You still may need rent subsidies. So the idea here is, if you work and you work hard, you should be able to pay for your basic necessities."
Rantz said while it's nice to say that everyone deserves a fair wage, there's always the question of where that additional money comes from.
Farrell recognized payroll costs are some of the greatest costs in business and told Rantz she has a few ideas about how to make the transition easier on business.
"Maybe there is a conversation we can introduce about some targeted tax reform for small businesses," said Farrell. "So if we're increasing the payroll side of the ledger, maybe there is a targeted way to lower some of the tax burden on small businesses."
She also said they're looking out for businesses with the incorporation of a phase-in period for the increase. "The wage would increase slowly over three years. It would go up to $10 in 2015, $11 in 2016, then $12."
Rantz asked Farrell if she would be willing to commit to putting the tax reform portion into the bill.
"I would be," said Farrell. "Small business owners are very important to our economy. Low-wage workers are very important to our economy, too. They turn around and put everything they earn right back into those small businesses [...] I am really committed to the idea of a fair wage, and I'm also really committed to making sure that our small business owners can make it all pencil out."
Farrell backpedaled a little, saying it could be two bills, just the way things go politically, but assured Rantz, "I am committing on air that I will put something forward that looks at that other side, too."
Rantz said he's looking forward to seeing what she puts together.