Should Washington state look at a regional minimum wage?
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.
“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.