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Inslee Calls for an Increase in the Minimum Wage

Washington already has the highest state minimum wage in the nation, and Gov. Jay Insleesays it should go even higher. The Democratic governor said in his “State of the State” address Tuesday that too many parents with full-time jobs are struggling to put food on the table for their families. Inslee didn’t propose a specific minimum wage, but suggested it should be somewhere between $10.82 and $11.82 cents an hour.

Washington’s minimum wage is currently $9.32 an hour and rises steadily thanks to a voter-approved initiative. In Seattle, local officials have been exploring the possibility of raising the minimum wage there to as high as $15 an hour.

Inslee also wants lawmakers to add another $200 million to the state’s education system this year.He said  the Legislature needs to do more this year to respond to state Supreme Court demands that the system be more fully funded. Lawmakers did add an extra $1 billion to public schools last year, but hesays it is time to do more. The Governorhad initially proposed a spending plan just weeks ago that made minimal spending changes. The Democrat says he’s had to rethink that approach now that the Supreme Court says it wants to see more progress on education funding.

In 2012, the high court ruled that the state is not meeting its constitutional obligation concerning education funding. Lawmakers estimate they need to find a total of between $3.5 billion and $4.5 billion more over the coming years to fully pay for basic education.

On transportation Inslee says this is the year to pass a transportation spending package. He put pressure on the state Senate, which declined to take a vote last year on a package approved in the state House. He says if the Senate can pass a package of its own, he’s confident lawmakers can find agreement on the spending plan.

Leading lawmakers have said a spending package that increases the state gas tax may be difficult to pass this year because of ongoing problems at the Department of Transportation. Officials are dealing with cost overruns on a 520 bridge project and a tunneling machine that is stuck in Seattle.

Inslee says he is also frustrated with the problems at DOT, but he says the state can’t let issues on mega projects stop the state from moving forward.

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