A minimum wage fight outside Seattle could shape state Legislature | KUOW News and Information

A minimum wage fight outside Seattle could shape state Legislature

Oct 13, 2016

A bump in the state minimum wage is on your fall ballot – Initiative 1433. It would raise the hourly wage $4 by the year 2020.

In one Snohomish County swing district, Republicans and Democrats are battling over that increase. And their struggle may help determine which party controls the state Legislature next year. 

Republicans already control the Senate. Democrats are currently hanging on to the House by just two seats. 

Republican Janice Huxford is running for an open seat in the 44th Legislative District. She recently went door-to-door to win votes in Mill Creek – a small, affluent city in Snohomish County in the heart of the district.

One of the issues Huxford is talking about is the minimum wage.

“ My concern is that we are now being told what the state minimum wage should be at an inflated rate across the state. What is good in Mill Creek is different in Roy is different in Republic,” she said.

Huxford co-owns a roofing business in Lake Stevens with her husband, Dave. 

So who does she think is going to be hurt by a state wage hike? 

“Absolutely it's going to be the employee. I think that employers are not going to be able to hire as much as they've wanted to and have been in the past. And certainly it's going to affect those people and their families,” she said. 

Huxford's opponent, Democrat John Lovick, disagrees that employees will be hurt by a wage hike. Lovick is a former sheriff and county executive for Snohomish County. He was appointed to the open seat in the 44th back in June.

John Lovick at the Spotted Cow Coffee Company in Mill Creek
Credit KUOW Photos/David Hyde

He said this hike is badly needed for minimum wage workers:

"It could simply mean more money in their pocket to spend on food, clothes and the things that they need. And it will mean a lot to our economy to have those extra dollars to spend," Lovick said.

He also said he believes a place like Mill Creek can support the raise.

"When you think about the fact that it's incremental; it's not like tomorrow we're waking up saying  now you have to pay $13.50. They are allowed to phase it in over a period,” he said.

In the 44th District primary, Lovick came out about 4.5 percentage points ahead Huxford.

The polling that's been done shows Initiative 1433 has about 60 percent support statewide. 

"It would be hard to make a living on $10 an hour, especially by 2020. Raising people up with higher wages benefits society all the way around," said Ron Farrell, a librarian at the Mill Creek Library. 

But Sabrina Zhang is less sure.  

"I think for the low-income people maybe it's good news, but for the small businesses – if they have to raise the minimum wage then their costs will be higher,” she said. “I don't know. I see both sides." 

Sabrina Zhang and Ron Farrell weigh in on the minimum wage debate outside the Mill Creek Library.
Credit KUOW Photo/David Hyde