Plans to lower Washingtons minimum wage could be difficult sell

first_imgOLYMPIA — Efforts to change Washington’s higher minimum wage approved by voters last November face a tough road in the Legislature.But that didn’t keep Sen. Mike Baumgartner from proposing lower wages for teens, for nonprofit workers, and for anyone outside of King County.At a hearing Thursday, the Spokane Republican argued it wouldn’t be unprecedented for both chambers to muster the two-thirds necessary to change an initiative just months after it passed. It’s a difficult sell, but lawmakers did it a few years ago when faced with a tight budget and an expensive mandate from voters to reduce class sizes in public schools.“Real people are losing jobs because of this initiative,” he told the Senate Commerce, Labor and Sports Committee.But opponents countered that workers are starting to earn enough money to support themselves and their families with the higher wages mandated by I-1433. Senate Bill 5530, which would delay the minimum wage hikes for two years in all Washington counties except King County, would cover most of the state’s minimum wage workers, said Misha Wershkul, of the liberal Washington State Budget and Policy Center.That’s more than 500,000 workers statewide, and more than 50,000 in Spokane County, she said.Some lawmakers and other opponents pointed out that another proposal, Senate Bill 5532, which would allow nonprofit organizations to pay a lower minimum wage, would include most of the state’s large hospitals, which are nonprofits with thousands of employees.That’s not the intent, Baumgartner said. He’s interested in helping small nonprofits like Spokane’s Union Gospel Mission, where officials told him last year they’d have to cut back on services for alcohol and drug abuse treatment because of the additional wage costs.last_img

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