- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Washington already has the highest state minimum wage in the country, and Gov. Jay Inslee says it should go even higher.

Inslee said in his State of the State address Tuesday that too many parents with full-time jobs are struggling to put food on the table for their families. Inslee didn’t propose a specific minimum wage, but he suggested it should be somewhere between $10.82 and $11.82 cents an hour.

“An increase in minimum wage means more money being spent in our economy,” Inslee, a Democrat, said in prepared remarks.

Washington’s minimum wage is currently $9.32 an hour and rises steadily thanks to a voter-approved initiative.

State Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said he was “very concerned” about any proposal to increase the minimum wage, arguing the best anti-poverty program the state can pursue is ensuring people keep jobs.

He said people and businesses in his district are competing on the border with Idaho, which has a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The minimum wage issue has been prominent in Washington state politics recently.

In November voters in the airport city of SeaTac narrowly approved a measure granting a $15 an hour minimum wage for many workers. The measure applied to workers at the airport and related industries, like hotels and rental car companies.

But a King County Superior Court judge ruled that the law applied to about 1,600 hotel and parking lot workers in SeaTac, but not to employees and contractors working within Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is operated by the Port of Seattle.

Seattle officials have been exploring the possibility of raising the minimum wage there to as high as $15 an hour. Earlier this month newly-elected Mayor Ed Murray directed his department leaders to come up with a strategy for paying city employees more. A preliminary budget analysis showed the move to a $15 hourly wage for city workers would cost Seattle about $700,000 in additional payroll and benefit costs.

About 600 city workers now earn less than $15 an hour, including ushers, cashiers and attendants. There are about 10,000 city employees.

Murray, a former state senator who won the mayoral election with about 52 percent of the vote, campaigned on hiking the city’s overall minimum wage to $15 an hour by the end of his four-year term.

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