Inslee v. Bryant on raising the statewide minimum wage

SEATTLE -- Should Washington raise the statewide minimum wage? It’s an initiative that looks to be headed for the November ballot, but has divided Gov. Jay Inslee and his Republican challenger Bill Bryant.

In a show of support and campaign photo-op for I-1433, the Governor helped gather signatures in downtown Seattle on Thursday afternoon.

“Our minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation or rent or the economy. We need to increase it,” Gov. Inslee told reporters.

I-1433 would raise the minimum wage to $13.50 over four years, as well as provide paid sick leave to employees currently without it. Currently, Washington’s minimum wage is $9.47, according to the State Department of Labor and Industries. 

“I like what we're trying to do, but I'm not sure this one size fits all approach by initiative is really how we should get there,” said Bill Bryant, Inslee’s Republican challenger.

Bryant, a former Port of Seattle Commissioner, voted in favor of a phased minimum wage increase at Sea-Tac in 2013. However, he says what may work for Sea-Tac or Seattle, home of $15 minimum wage, may not work for cities elsewhere across the state.

“What I'm hearing from those (small business) owners is that 'if you raise this minimum wage too quickly, too high, I'm going to have to lay off a few people, and I'll start covering their shifts, and then when my lease runs out, I'll decide whether I even want to keep in business or not.' We don't want that,” Bryant said.

“There’s a state beyond Seattle and King County,” he continued. “What works here might not work in Longview,  Pasco and Cusick."

Inslee, meanwhile, argues a boost in pay for more employees will in turn stimulate the economy.

“One thing we know about businesses, they have to have a customer if they want to sell their products. We need to give people money in their pockets so they can be customers,” he said.

“I will stand rock solid and say this… you need $13.50 an hour to live if you’re working 40 hours a week, if you’re living anywhere in the state of Washington, and I’m confident of that assertion,” the Governor continued.

Bryant, on the other hand, believes the next Governor’s administration should work with the legislature to come up with a plan that takes into account different regions and their respective economies.

“In an attempt to help some, let’s not make it worse on others,” Bryant.

Inslee said the legislature, with split chambers, hasn’t acted, so the people should.

“The Senate is in the control of a group that really has not been helpful for working people in raising their minimum wage, so the people are going to act here. I’m confident they will.”

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