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King County could get a $19 per hour minimum wage

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A new proposal aims to raise King County's minimum wage to nearly $19 per hour.

"Workers should not struggle to barely survive in our region," King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay said while introducing the proposal Thursday.

Zahilay argues that unincorporated portions of the county compete with neighboring areas with higher wages. For example, he said, someone in Skyway could simply walk a few blocks to Seattle or Tukwila for a higher rate.

RELATED: Changes to Washington employment laws and wages in 2023

Washington state's minimum wage is currently $15.74 per hour. Zahilay's proposal would raise the county's rate to $18.99 per hour.

That's slightly above Seattle's current minimum wage of $18.69 per hour, for businesses with more than 500 employees (some businesses can pay $16.50 under certain factors). SeaTac's minimum wage is $19.06 per hour, and is adjusted annually for inflation. In 2022, Tukwila voters approved a measure that aligns its city's minimum wage with SeaTac's.

Like the aforementioned cities, the proposed ordinance for King County factors in annual raises, according to inflation.

The proposal also aims to phase smaller businesses into the new minimum wage. For example, a business with fewer than 15 employees and an annual revenue of less than $2 million would pay workers $3 less than the new minimum wage, once enacted. Companies with between 15–500 employees could pay $2 less. These companies would then pay an additional 50 cents and $1 respectively each year until they catch up.

The proposal cites a number of statistics to make its case, such as the Self-Sufficiency Standard for Washington State. It also quotes 2022 data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition — 103 hours at minimum wage is needed to afford a basic one-bedroom home in King County.

NILHC's 2023 data states that the Seattle-Bellevue area is the the most expensive region to live in the state, and the wage necessary to afford a two-bedroom apartment is $47.21 per hour in King County.

The proposal is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Joe McDermott, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and Rod Dembowski.

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