Washington state's minimum wage will increase by 12 cents -- to $8.67 an hour -- on Jan. 1.
The wage is tied, by a citizen initiative, to the the Consumer Price Index. Since inflation was flat the previous year, no increase occurred in 2011.
The most recent CPI data show a slight increase in that index.
Washington's Labor and Industries department originally went to Attorney General Rob McKenna to determine if the state has the right to boost the minimum wage if the CPI has risen but to a point below what was used to set the existing level of $8.55.
McKenna said the state can't. The group who pushed the wage initiative, the Washington state Labor Council, opposed McKenna's interpretation.
Labor and Industries spokeswoman Kim Contris said the decision to raise the rate "was based on interpreting the original intent of the law.
"We really wanted to correctly implement the law," she said. "We recognize there could be confusion and additional cost if we made a mistake and the court overturned the decision."
Washinton's rate is the highest minimum in the nation. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.