In his State of the State speech yesterday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced his support for an initiative to raise the statewide minimum wage. The new initiative, just filed on Monday, would raise the minimum wage to $13.50 an hour.
“That’s why I’m supporting the initiative that was filed yesterday that phases in a true minimum wage and provides paid sick leave for hard-working Washingtonians.
“I stand on this rock-solid belief: If you work 40 hours a week, you deserve a wage that puts a roof over your head and food on the table. Period. And you shouldn’t have to give up a day’s pay if you or your kids get sick.”
It’s no surprise Inslee backs the initiative. Just as the Democrats used ballot measures on marijuana and gay marriage in 2012 to turn out liberal voters who weren’t otherwise excited by Inslee, the left has been searching for the right turnout initiatives for 2016.
Endorsing the initiative does seem to reverse a previous Inslee stance. In 2014, when the state teachers union ran its class size initiative, Inslee refused to say whether he was for or against it. Every newspaper in the state opposed the initiative, but Inslee stayed out of it – a curious thing to do for a governor who would have to deal with the initiative’s huge fiscal impact.
Seattle Times editorial board member Blanca Torres wrote, “Inslee said he didn’t want to sway voters by taking a stance before the election, but instead, he dodged a chance to lead and prevent a flawed initiative from going forward.”
Didn’t want to sway voters? Given his public support of the minimum wage initiative, he must not feel that way anymore. Or maybe the real reason for Inslee’s reticence in 2014 was that he was trying not to tick off the teachers union, his close allies.
By not saying he was against the initiative until after the election, Inslee was trying to have it both ways. By keeping silent, he didn’t upset the union, but by stating his opposition after the fact he could claim he was for fiscal prudence – another example of Jay Inslee’s style of bold leadership.