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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."

As Fundraising Lags, Bryant Gives Jobs Speech

Campaign photo
File photo of Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Bryant

Washington’s Republican candidate for governor said he supports raising the minimum wage in some parts of the state -- but not everywhere. Bill Bryant outlined his position Tuesday in a jobs and economy speech to the Association of Washington Business Policy Summit at the Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum.

Bryant, a former Port of Seattle Commissioner who runs his own trade consulting firm, said if elected, he would work with the Washington legislature next year to come up with a minimum wage increase proposal. But not one that requires a hike in the base wage in all 39 counties.

“Imposing on all areas a one-size-fits-all minimum wage increase based on the cost of living in our most expensive areas, could end up causing people in other areas to have their hours or benefits cut, or could cause them to lose their jobs or could cause some businesses to close,” Bryant said.

Bryant did not offer details on the sort of plan he would consider. However, Oregon recently moved to a regionally-based minimum wage system. A spokesman for Bryant’s Democratic opponent, Gov. Jay Inslee, called the idea “a smokescreen for his opposition to the initiative that’s on the ballot this November to raise the minimum wage.”

In November, Washington voters will decide Initiative 1433 that would raise the state minimum wage to $13.50 an hour over four years and require employers to provide up to seven days of paid sick leave. Inslee supports that measure.

In his speech to members of the Association of Washington Business, Bryant also called for a moratorium on new state regulations, a tax package to benefit small businesses and “innovative financing” to pay for transportation projects.

He reiterated his support for charter schools and urged a renewed focus on career and technical education options for high school juniors and seniors.

“I want to reinvent the last two years of high school to expand CTE programs and pre-apprenticeship and industry certification opportunities in everything from building trades to biotech to computer sciences and medical services,” Bryant said in prepared remarks.

Bryant said in his speech the “wheels are wobbly” on Washington’s economy and noted that the state has the eighth highest unemployment rate in the country at 5.8 percent. Inslee counters that Washington has added more than 250,000 jobs since he took office in 2013 and has the lowest unemployment rate since 2008.

Inslee has said if re-elected, he will focus on investing in Washington state employees, expanding STEM education and reducing the cost of college.

Bryant’s speech came just a day after his campaign reported new fundraising totals that show he continues to struggle to raise enough money to mount a competitive challenge to Inslee. From late July through August, Bryant raised just $304,000 and reports only $308,000 cash on hand. That compares to Inslee’s $922,000 raised during the same period and $3.72 million cash on hand.

“We obviously need to raise a lot of money quickly so we can be on TV in a significant way,” Bryant spokesman Jason Roe said. He added that the campaign has “a lot of fundraising in the pipeline.”

“We’re at a point now where the donors really need to step up,” Roe said.

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."