Eastern Washington voters question minimum wage initiative

Chris Daniels reports

WENATCHEE, Wash. – Life on 'Easy Street' can be hard when you're a small business owner.

But in Wenatchee, the Cottage Inn has operated for the last 76 years.

"It was known when it was first founded, for steak and fried chicken," said owner Dan Sutton, with a smile. 

Sutton’s face tenses up though when talking about the next four years.

"There will be businesses that close their doors.  I guarantee it," he said.

That's because of the Initiative 1433, which could change the math in apple country. The initiative would raise the minimum wage to $11 an hour in 2017, $12 in 2019, and $13.50 in 2020.  That's a few cents more than a $4 an hour raise from the current minimum wage.

It's been said that a higher minimum wage has been a success in Seattle, and projections of doom and gloom did not come to fruition. However, Seattle's median income is more than $80,000 a year, and Wenatchee is less than $50,000.

Sutton said, in his mind, higher wages mean higher prices.  He said his customer base includes people on a fixed income, and if prices get spiked, they'll spend less.

In seems, in our random survey in this town, that voters are unsure of what they'll do on Election Day. 

"Young people need it, but what about the social security people, what's that going to do to them?" Elmer Melcher, of Wenatchee said

"I'd probably (vote) against it, cause I'd say Jiminy Christmas, I do it for $2 an hour, or $10 a day, and I made it, but I didn't have to live with the prices they are today,” said voter Marti Darling.

Multiple newspaper editorial boards across this side of the state, have agreed with Sutton. The Spokesman Review of Spokane, Tri City Herald, Yakima Herald, and the Walla Walla Union Bulletin have all urged voters to reject I-1433. The News Tribune of Tacoma and Everett Herald have also urged a no vote in recent days.

Sutton believes at least in his part of the state, cuts will come as long as voters give workers a bigger slice of the pie.

"A rising tide does not necessarily float all boats," said Sutton.

Copyright 2016 KING


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