Tacoma mayor: $15 minimum wage would be a ‘shock’ to the economy

May 14, 2015, 5:48 PM | Updated: May 15, 2015, 6:00 am

A $15 minimum wage is too high for Tacoma and may not have been the best choice for Seattle, Mayor Marilyn Strickland told KIRO Radio's Jason Rantz.

A $15 minimum wage is too high for Tacoma and may not have been the best choice for Seattle, Mayor Marilyn Strickland told KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz.

For starters, the cost of living in Seattle is higher than Tacoma, so a similar minimum wage isn’t appropriate, she said. The median rent in Seattle is 60 percent higher than Tacoma, for example.

“We need to find something that will work best for us,” she explained.

Seattle may have jumped the gun by approving a minimum wage based on gross revenue, without taking into account profit margins, Strickland said.

“[Seattle’s] intentions were good, but not realistic on how business operates,” she said.

Activists are urging Tacoma follow SeaTac and Seattle’s wage path. Those with 15 NOW have been collecting signatures since last year to qualify a measure for the November ballot that would immediately increase Tacoma’s minimum wage to $15 in 2016.

An immediate increase of the minimum wage is something many businesses couldn’t handle, according to some business owners.

Reggie Frederick, owner of Chalet Bowl, told Rantz it would be too fast.

“I think it’s too much, too quickly,” he said. “Not to say I’m against it.”

Like many other businesses in Tacoma, if Frederick’s wages increased, prices would also increase. Visitors will have the dilemma of whether it’s worth paying higher fees to be able to bowl. Higher fees might also take out some of the enjoyment of bowling, he added.

“It really scares the hell outta me,” he told Rantz.

This is why Mayor Strickland and the city council created a task force to tackle the issue of raising the minimum wage. The group will try to figure out if $15 is even a realistic wage for Tacoma and how to reach a higher wage.

The council is comprised of a diverse set of people, including small business owners, a 15 NOW member and a 16-year-old preparing to graduate high school.

“I think it’s important to have a broad base of voices to talk about what is the best way and best rate,” Strickland told Rantz.

Though the city may be looking at raising the wage, 15 NOW still has the chance to get its own measure on the ballot. Strickland is positive the group will have the opportunity, regardless of what the city is doing.

“I think the people agree the wage should increase, but how much and at what pace?” Strickland said. “Fifteen dollars an hour would be too much of a shock to our economy.”

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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Tacoma mayor: $15 minimum wage would be a ‘shock’ to the economy