Spokane Voters Reject "Family Wage" as Portland and Tacoma Vote Down $15 Per Hour Wage Proposals

November 06, 2015

In this week's elections involving a number of closely watched votes on wage requirements, voters shot down some of the most sweeping initiatives.  Most notably, 62 percent of the voters in Spokane, Washington voted down a measure that, among other things, would have required employers to pay a "family wage" to be set by the city that would be based on certain parameters, such as "basic needs," "future emergencies" and working "without public assistance."  It reportedly could have been set anywhere from $11.85 to $28.11 per hour, then indexed to inflation.  In addition, two other cities rejected minimum wage hikes to $15 per hour.  In Tacoma, Washington, voters did approve a $12 per hour floor, but only 29 percent voted for a $15 floor.  In Portland, Maine, the City Council had already approved a bill in September to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by January 1, 2016.  Chris Hall, chief executive officer of the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce said that while "everybody agrees that $7.50 is not acceptable," $15 is "way beyond what we can do."  Though it is often difficult to draw too much inference from off-year elections because of low turnout, an optimistic reading of these results would be that, while the voters are concerned about the broader income inequality issue, they recognize the potential negative economic impact of the most extreme measures aimed at addressing the problem.