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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington House Passes $12 Minimum Wage

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Democrats in the Washington state House have passed a $12 per hour minimum wage measure. The increase would phase-in over four years.

The party-line vote late Tuesday followed a lengthy and passionate debate. The proposal now goes to the Washington Senate where it’s likely to receive a chilly reception.

“This is a modest policy,” said Democrat Jessyn Farrell, the prime sponsor of the bill. She said it would put $350 more per month in the pocket of a minimum wage worker.

“And while that is not a huge amount, that allows you to get your car fixed, it allows you to go to the dentist maybe and get your teeth fixed,” Farrell said.

Republicans like Liz Pike argued that a $12 minimum wage would mean fewer opportunities for teenagers to get a first job.

“And it will have chilling effects on an entire generation of young people in this state,” Pike said.

The House measure would not keep cities like Seattle and SeaTac from enacting even higher base wages. Washington has the highest state minimum wage in the country at $9.47 per hour.

Democrats in Oregon and Idaho are also pushing minimum wage hikes. The proposal in Oregon would take the base wage to $15 per hour. The Idaho measure would move the minimum wage up $2 to $9.25 per hour.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."