House Democrats plan to introduce legislation that would create a “training wage” for freshman members of the Legislature.
The largely symbolic move is a jab at a Republican-backed measure proposed in the Senate that would allow some employers to pay 10 percent of their employees a wage set at 75 percent of the state minimum wage or the federal minimum wage, whichever is greater. It would apply to the employee’s first 680 hours.
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour while the state minimum wage is $9.19 per hour.
Under the plan unveiled by four House Democrats on Tuesday, new legislators would earn only 75 percent of their salary for their first two years in office. Pay would also be withheld when a legislator misses work due to an illness.
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Rep. Mike Sells (D-Everett) said during a press conference organized by the advocacy group Fuse on Tuesday. “What we get out of the Republican Senate is attacks on minimum wage, attacks on prevailing wage, attacks on sick leave and nothing on how we are going to fund education. We are going to suggest something that strikes at the heart of those people suggesting we lower the minimum wage.”
Three other House members – Reps. Sherri Appleton (D-Pouslbo), Timm Ormsby (D-Spokane) and Laurie Jinkins (D-Tacoma) – have signed on to the resolution.
State lawmakers currently make $42,106 a year. Sells said if the resolution were to pass, a recommendation would go to a salary commission, who is actually responsible for setting pay for lawmakers.
“Sometimes symbols can do a lot and say a lot. What it’s doing in this case is calling out some people who are asking for these kinds of things and saying, okay put your money where your mouth is. It does draw a stark picture of what it means when it happens to you.”
On Wednesday, House Republicans responded to the proposal in a news release:
Lead Republicans on the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee responded today to House Democrats who held a press conference to introduce a House Joint Memorial that would create a “training wage” for freshman members of the Legislature. Rep. Matt Manweller, ranking Republican on the committee, was highly critical of the gesture.
“Democratic control in Washington has resulted in 17 percent unemployment rates for white youth in our state and a staggering 37 percent unemployment rate for African-American youth. Now, as Republicans try to clean up the mess their union-dominated policies have created, they offer nothing but symbolic resolutions,” said Rep. Matt Manweller (R-Ellensburg). “I am sure it is a tongue-in-cheek gesture, but tell that to the unemployed youth who want to have a job. I think this stunt shows their economic ignorance.”
Rep. Cary Condotta, who has served as the ranking Republican on the committee the eight years before Manweller, said he was tired about the misinformation and spin being put on the training wage issue.
“The training wage does not reduce anyone’s wages. The proposed legislation, which we have agreed to limit to the 17 to 19 age range, is simply trying to address high teen unemployment, and getting a training wage in place to encourage some of our smaller employers to hire and train new employees,” said Condotta, R-East Wenatchee. “I would like to see some meaningful solutions from the other side. I guess if they are going to offer tongue-in-cheek memorials they do not have any solutions or do not understand the economics of this issue.”