OLYMPIA — Washington already has the highest minimum wage of any state in the country, but a packed hearing room at the Capitol was filled with supporters of a new minimum-wage bill saying it’s just not high enough.
“Income inequality is as bad as it has been since my grandmother was a small girl in 1929,” said Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle. “We know that we can do better than that.”
The bills sponsored by state Sen. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, and Farrell would increase the hourly wage to $12 over the course of four years, starting in 2016. The current minimum wage in Washington is $9.47 per hour. The Seattle City Council and voters in SeaTac have already approved increases to $15 an hour.
A long row of lawmakers stood behind speakers to illustrate the support for the measure. Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, was lauded for stepping across the aisle, as was Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who is sponsoring another bill introduced by the group to set a minimum of paid sick days.
Farrell said legislative action was the best way to approach the problem rather than a ballot measure. Almost 40 representatives have voiced approval for the minimum-wage bill.
“We wanted to introduce it early so that we can have time to have a good dialogue with folks on both sides of the aisle,” Farrell said. “There’s no doubt there’s a lot of momentum on this issue.”
A similar bill last year to increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour, phased in over three years, was never put to a vote in the House.