Olympia: Minimum wage, gas tax on the agenda

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Capital gains tax being debated under the Capitol Dome.

Bills to increases Washington's minimum wage and to impose mandatory sick leave at many companies are expected to go to full House votes early this week, meaning Democratic leaders believe they have the votes lined up to pass them.

Weeks ago, the House Labor Committee recommended approval of both bills -- splitting along party lines.

Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D- Seattle, introduced the bill to increase Washington's minimum wage from $9.47 to $12 an hour by 2019. And Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, introduced a bill to require companies with more than four employees to provide sick leave. Companion Democratic bills in the Republican-controlled Senate never went anywhere, signaling a hostile reception to Farrell and Jinkins' legislation when those bills reach the Senate.

This is one of the two biggest legislative votes expected this week. Both the Senate and House have a full week of floor sessions to pass bills that have gotten out of committees so far.

The other major legislative showdown is set for Monday in the Senate.

Facing a sure 26-23 defeat on Friday on a gas tax bill, Senate Democrats asked Lt. Gov. Brad Owen whether a new Senate rule requiring two-thirds approval for any new tax should apply in this case. Senate Republicans voted in that rule on Jan. 13 over Democratic objections.

Owen's ruling is expected to be announced Monday.

It will likely revolve around the wording of the gas tax bill, more obscure fee increases in it, the wording of the Jan. 13 Senate rule, and whether a gas tax increase involves an existing tax or a new tax. The GOP contends the Jan.13 Senate rule applies only to new taxes and not to increasing existing taxes.

The Democratic question raised Friday came after an unsuccessful attempt to remove a so-called "poison pill" provision from the gas tax hike bill. Democrats were ready to support the gas tax bill, if the Republicans would remove a provision that would shift much of the package’s transit, pedestrian and bike-path money to work on roads if Gov. Jay Inslee installs low-carbon fuel standards.


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About the Authors & Contributors

John Stang

John Stang

John Stang is a freelance writer who often covers state government and the environment. He can be reached on email at johnstang_8@hotmail.com and on Twitter at @johnstang_8