Olympia, Wash. - Gov. Jay Inslee surprised lawmakers today by announcing that he's considering an executive order to raise the minimum wage for state employees and contractors. The governor’s revelation came at the White House after discussing a higher minimum wage with other governors and President Barack Obama. “We're exploring some executive action on adoption of a minimum wage involving state employment, perhaps contractors,” Inslee said.
Washington has the highest statewide minimum wage in the country, but a proposal to raise it from the current $9.32 an hour to $12 an hour is stalled in the state Legislature. So the governor may act on his own when it comes to state workers. “We are reviewing the options that are available to us and the numbers right now so that's going to be under review, that's going to take weeks or months before we're going to be prepared to talk about that.”
Republican lawmakers don’t want to be bypassed. “I think the American people are becoming a little wary of governors and presidents governing by executive order,” said Ellensburg Rep. Matt Manweller. Manweller also wonders where the money would come from. “Is he going to take that money out of education and send it to state employees instead?”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is already doing something similar, preparing to order minimum wage increase to $15 an hour for city workers. Inslee said, “All we are doing is restoring the purchasing power of the minimum wage to what it was two or three decades ago.”
Not counting higher education employees, there are roughly 475 employees making less than $12 an hour. The governor’s office told us that ultimately the Legislature would have an opportunity to weigh in on how to pay any increase in the minimum wage.