- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Supporters of raising the minimum wage in Washington state turned in more than 360,000 signatures Wednesday in hopes of qualifying a ballot measure that seeks to incrementally increase the state’s rate over the next four years to $13.50 an hour.

Twenty boxes of signatures for Initiative 1433 were delivered to the secretary of state’s office, where proponents gathered to tout the measure.

Ariana Davis, a grocery worker from Renton who is the sponsor of I-1433, said that “this initiative is going to change the lives of every worker in Washington.”

“Passing 1433 is the right thing to do for our economy and for our jobs,” she said.

If it qualifies for the ballot and is approved by voters in November, the wage increase would be phased in starting next year, when the statewide rate would increase to $11 an hour. It would increase to $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019 and will hit $13.50 an hour in 2020.The measure also would provide paid sick leave to employees who don’t currently have it.

Washington’s current minimum wage is $9.47 an hour, but the rate is adjusted each year for inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for the past 12 months. The yearly recalculation is required by Initiative 688, which was approved by Washington voters in 1998.

Several business groups, including the Association of Washington Business, the Washington Restaurant Association, and the Washington Farm Bureau issued a written statement Wednesday stating their opposition to the initiative and expressing disappointment that “a thoughtful middle ground” could not be found through the legislative process. Previous bills on the minimum wage, including one to raise the statewide wage to $12 an hour, never gained traction in the Legislature.

“We want to create opportunities for everyone to succeed without jeopardizing job retention and growth, particularly in rural communities,” wrote Association of Washington Business President Kris Johnson.

An initiative requires at least 246,372 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified, though the secretary of state’s office suggests at least 325,000 in case of any duplicate or invalid signatures. Dave Ammons, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, says that the signature validation process will take a few weeks.

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