Minimum wage hike to $13.50 an hour set for November ballot

OLYMPIA — The state’s voters will decide in November whether to raise the minimum wage.

The Secretary of State’s office announced Friday that supporters gathered enough valid signatures for the measure to make the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

The state Elections Division completed a random sample of the 345,907 signatures submitted by the initiative backers and determined that the measure easily exceeded the bare minimum of 246,372 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, said David Ammons, office spokesman.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman said a random sample of more than 10,000 signatures showed most were valid.

The rejection rate, for duplicates or invalid signatures, was 15 percent, lower than the average error rate of 18 percent, Ammons said.

Raise wages

If approved, Initiative 1433 would raise the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 an hour, bumping it up to this level over four years.

The 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 hit $13.50 an hour in 2020.

Washington’s current minimum wage is $9.47 an hour. The rate is adjusted each year for inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for the past 12 months.

The measure also would provide paid sick leave to employees who don’t currently have it.

Employers would have to provide one hour of paid sick leave for each 40 hours an employee works.

Ariana Davis, a grocery worker from Renton who is the sponsor of I-1433, said last week 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.

Critics say the measure, if approved, could hurt small businesses.

Groups opposed

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.

The measure would not affect Seattle, the Puget Sound Business Journal noted, pointing out that the Seattle City Council voted in 2014 to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Other initiatives

State Elections Director Lori Augino said crews immediately began work Friday on verifying signatures for I-1491, which deals with gun restrictions for those covered under temporary “extreme risk” protection orders.

After that, crews will check I-1501, dealing with “protection of seniors and vulnerable individuals from financial crimes and victimization.”

Finally, I-1464 will be checked. It covers campaign finance reform, disclosure and enforcement, and creation of a public campaign financing program.

Two other citizen-generated measures, Initiatives to the Legislature 732, dealing with carbon taxes, and 735, opposing Citizen United court decision, already have qualified for the fall ballot.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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