Minimum wage bill passes out of House committee; closing skills gap a better solution

Yesterday, on a 5-4 party line vote, the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee passed HB 2672, which would raise the statewide minimum wage to $12. Committee passage was expected. Whether there are the votes in the full House to increase the wage is somewhat in doubt. And it’s a certainty that the Senate will kill it, but perhaps not without a hearing.

Commerce and Labor Chair Janea Holmquist Newbry, R-Moses Lake, promises a hearing, if only to demonstrate the impact on business and job creation.

At Crosscut, Robert Mak has a good, brief video summarizing the issues.

Although the $12 wage legislation gets the bulk of the attention, the Labor and Workforce Development Committee also passed HB 2608, which would bump the minimum wage for classified school employees to $15 an hour. The bill makes no additional appropriation to school districts to cover the increased cost.

That bill comes with a price tag of $54 million, and [Rep. Matt] Manweller pointed out the state wasn’t promising to give local school districts the money to cover it. [Committee chair Mike] Sells agreed it was something the state must pay for, but said the committee was just setting the policy and leaving it to the Appropriations Committee to come up with the money.

One thing most economists agree on is that raising the minimum wage will increase youth unemployment. A new report published by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce details the problems facing young people today.

Today, more than 16% of America’s youth are jobless, a rate double that of adults. For many of them, unemployment is chronic, and the ill-effects are long lasting. Jobless young people lose out on critical skills and social network development, earn significantly less over their careers than their employed peers, and strain public welfare programs.

Pricing young and inexperienced workers out of the market moves us in the wrong direction. The Business Climate blog describes a better answer, addressing the skills gap, an issue directly addressed in this Washington Roundtable report.