AWB hopes to minimize increase of minimum wage

TULALIP — Gary Chandler's advice for business owners regarding a potential minimum wage increase is this: Better a little than a lot.

Gary Chandler of the AWB speaks for chamber members about state issues.

TULALIP — Gary Chandler’s advice for business owners regarding a potential minimum wage increase is this: Better a little than a lot.

Chandler serves as vice president of government affairs for the Association of Washington Businesses, and delivered his annual legislative update to the Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce March 25.

“We believe that raising the minimum wage is the wrong way to go, but the public polling does not agree with us,” Chandler said. “Rather than raising the minimum wage to a so-called ‘living wage,’ our solution would be to graduate people to higher-wage jobs.”

Chandler estimated that it would cost millions of dollars to try and fight the passage of a $13.50 minimum wage, but he’s seen signs that the public would be willing to support a $12 minimum wage instead.

“We wouldn’t advocate raising the minimum wage at all, but if we do nothing?” Chandler said. “A wage hike is likely to happen either way. At least this way, we’re less likely to leave behind teen employees and training-wage jobs.”

Chandler also expressed reservations about a proposal to guarantee workers 12 days of sick leave a year, since his preference would be no more than five.

The feasibility of various taxes occupied the remainder of Chandler’s remarks, as he elaborated on the ways in which taxes, and the removal of tax incentives, could hinder smaller businesses.

With the deadline looming in 2018 for the state legislature to fully fund basic education, Chandler categorized as much as three-fourths of the state budget as untouchable.

Moreover, since the state Supreme Court’s ruling determined that local levies could not be used to fund teachers’ salaries or health care, as part of basic education, the legislature has had to research the amounts that each school district’s levies had set aside for such expenses.

“And once we figure those amounts out, how do we fund them?” Chandler asked. “And should there be a statewide salary schedule, or should the Cost Of Living Allowance be determined by area? I live in Moses Lake, and I’m nervous about COLA being too low for certain areas, because who would want to go work there otherwise?”

On environmental issues, Chandler stated his opposition to both a proposed carbon emissions tax and a set of water-quality standards devised by the Department of Ecology.

“Individual drivers are the largest carbon emitters in the state,” said Chandler, who considers it unlikely the tax will pass. “And the water quality standards are so high that literally no one can meet them.”

Chandler worries that well-intentioned efforts to reduce carbon emissions within the state could make Washington less competitive, as businesses choose to go elsewhere. Also, that could increase the amount of carbon emissions worldwide, if those companies then choose to set up shop in China, which has notoriously lax standards, for example.

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