Raising the minimum wage would increase state costs. Who knew?

It looks like HB 2672, the bill that would raise the statewide minimum wage, won’t come to a vote on the House floor. Or maybe it will. As Publicola reports,

Rep. Jessyn Farrell’s (D-46, N. Seattle) bill to boost the state minimum wage from $9.32 to $12 by 2017 failed to come up for a vote in the appropriations committee last night or today [February 11], the last day for bills to move out of fiscal committees.

Nothing is ever really dead while the legislature is in session, as the sponsor reminds us.

“Let’s take a breath,” Farrell urged. She said she’s “looking at other avenues” and noted the possibility of declaring the bill “Necessary to Implement the Budget” (NTIB)—a longstanding legislative tactic that enables legislators to resuscitate bills that stall in the initial process. “Talk to me on Day 60,” she said, referring to the last day of the session, March 13.

Farrell points out that the paid sick leave bill passed on a party line vote earlier this session was a “hard vote” for many and possibly reduced members’ enthusiasm for another such vote. (A number of states are wrestling with similar issues this year.)

It’s likely, though, that a new fiscal note on the costs of the wage increase also influenced legislative opinion. Click to the note for the details, but Publicola’s shorthand sums it up.

The bill does come with an extensive fiscal note—it would cost tens of millions of dollars to increase the wages of state workers, social service contractors, student employees at state colleges and universities, and K-12 employees, to $12 an hour in the 2017 budget, for example.

As one legislative observer points out, it’s passing strange that a bill that increases state costs could be resurrected as “necessary to implement the budget.”

It does seem to stand logic on its head.

CNN Money, however, reports that going over the top is not unusual out here.

And although Washington’s recent wage and benefit initiatives have sparked interest beyond its borders, its progressive tendencies are historically rooted and are as much a trademark of the state as Seattle’s Space Needle and Mount Rainier.

“It’s in our DNA,” says Gael Tarleton, a state representative who sponsored the bill for vacation time. James Gregory, a professor of history at the University of Washington, puts it this way: “We think of Washington state as if it’s the upper left corner of the United States — both geographically and politically.”

Still, costs matter. Now if only lawmakers were as chary about raising business costs as some of them appear to be about raising state costs we would be making real progress.

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