Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D), whose state has the highest minimum wage of any in the country at $9.32 an hour, proposed raising it to between $10.82 and $11.82 in his State of the State address on Tuesday.
“There are tens of thousands of jobs that people depend on that don’t provide a living wage in our state,” he said. “An increase in minimum wage means more money being spent in our economy.”
Republicans in the sate House and Senate expressed concerns that a higher wage could hurt small businesses, farmers, and businesses along the border with Idaho, which has a minimum wage at the federal level of $7.25. Democrats control the House but Republicans effectively control the Senate.
Washington has lately become home to demands for even higher minimum wages. In the town surrounding the Seattle-Tacoma airport, voters approved a $15 minimum wage, although a court recently narrowed its impact to just those who work outside the airport. The group that organized support for the higher wage is fighting that decision.
But the $15 minimum wage idea caught on in the nearby city of Seattle, where Mayor Ed Murray (D) has said he wants a wage at that level. He created a task force to come up with a plan to raise the wage within four months with the goal of sending a proposal to the city council in July. Murray said the governor’s call for an increase would help his own efforts given that Seattle wages tend to be higher. “It’s time to have a statewide discussion,” he said.
Inslee joins a group of governors calling for higher minimum wages in their states. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) announced on Tuesday that he supports raising the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has made raising the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour a central part of his campaign for reelection, contrasting with a Republican candidate who has said in the past he wants to lower the state’s wage. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) supports fast-tracking a dollar increase in the state’s wage. And the leading Democratic candidate for governor of Iowa has proposed a $10.10 minimum wage. Efforts to raise the minimum wage are underway in nine other states: Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and South Dakota.
A $10.10 minimum wage has also caught on at the federal level. Democrats introduced a bill to raise it to the level last year and President Obama recently endorsed it after originally pushing for a $9 wage. Americans have also supported it by wide margins in different polls.