by: Essex Porter Updated:SEATTLE —
The battle for a higher minimum wage is going statewide after it started in SeaTac, then moved to Seattle. That, despite the fact that Washington already has the highest minimum wage in the country.
At the Seattle City Club's Legislation Preview, Senate Democratic leader Sharon Nelson took on the issue, when asked if it's time for the state to pass a $15-an-hour minimum wage. "I don't believe we can pass a $15 minimum wage but I do believe we seriously have to take a look at increasing the minimum wage in this state," Sen. Nelson said.
The current statewide minimum wage is $9.32 an hour. Nelson is looking at an $11-$12 minimum wage, an increase of 15 to 22 percent. But Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom says that would be a bad move. "What we need to do again is focus on education and focusing on making sure workers can get to that next step. I worked at McDonalds but I didn't expect it to be a career," Tom said.
Dan Kristiansen, the Republican leader in the House, believes a high minimum wage will hurt Washington agriculture. "When we're paying two and three dollars more per hour than our neighboring states who grow potatoes, who you going to buy your potatoes from?" said Rep. Kristiansen.
But Nelson replies, "If we want business to grow, people have to have disposable income and they need to be able to support their families." Nelson is in discussions with Gov. Inslee over raising the minimum wage. At this point, he believes it's time to start the conversation.