June 14, 2014 in City

Minimum wage not on agenda in Spokane, Stuckart says

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Don’t expect Spokane to follow Seattle’s lead on a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

City Council President Ben Stuckart said Friday he has no plans to call for an increase, nor does he have any intention of pushing for one in the future.

“I haven’t had any constituents or citizens calling and asking about raising the minimum wage,” Stuckart said. “It’s not even been a topic of discussion.”

But with the liberal-leaning majority in control of the nonpartisan council likely to swell to a veto-proof 5-2 margin this fall, concerns apparently are being raised in Spokane’s business community and elsewhere that a Seattle-style push to increase the local minimum wage could be on the council’s agenda.

Stuckart sought Friday to get ahead of the speculation with an unequivocal pledge that he won’t call for any changes in the minimum wage.

“We’ve got too many important things to deal with,” he said, noting also that there are big differences between Spokane and Seattle on economic issues such as cost of living and affordability.

Mayor David Condon, who received strong backing from local Republicans in his mayoral campaign, also has expressed his opposition and is aware that increasing the minimum wage is not being considered by the council, said city spokesman Brian Coddington.

Last week, in a controversial move that has drawn national attention, the Seattle City Council decided to increase the citywide minimum wage to $15 an hour in a series of staggered increases over the next three to seven years, beginning April 1 of next year. Business groups and others say that kind of dramatic hike will kill jobs and hurt workers and employers alike.

The Seattle decision prompted a lot of “what-if type of discussions” among business and conservative groups wondering if Spokane, the state’s second-largest city, would try to follow suit, said Michael Cathcart, a lobbyist with the Spokane Homebuilders Association and county GOP leader.

Learning that Stuckart has pledged to avoid the issue came as a relief. “I’d say that’s great news,” Cathcart said.

Driving part of the speculation as well is uncertainty over who will be chosen to replace Spokane City Councilman Steve Salvatori, a fiscal conservative who is resigning his council seat in July and moving to Dallas.

The replacement is chosen by the remaining members of the council, which is controlled by a liberal-leaning 4-3 majority led by Stuckart. That advantage could climb to 5-2, depending on who is selected. That’s enough to override any Condon vetoes.


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