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    Posted January 7, 2009 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Obama's debt cutting plan

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    Minimum Wage Earners Get Happy New Year in Washington State



    Washington State's minimum wage, already the highest in the nation, rose to $8.55 an hour on New Year's Day.



    According to the Spokesman Review, some employers aren't happy about the 48 cent increase.



    "We want to pay fair wages, but we're facing an industry crisis here," said spokeswoman Camille St. Onge. Gov. Chris Gregoire and her supporters hammered Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi earlier this year for saying he would support a lower minimum wage for young employees.



    Higher wages, St. Onge said, will put a greater squeeze on restaurants already struggling with thin profit margins as worried consumers eat out less. Consumers will likely see higher menu prices, she said."



    Voters and advocates for the poor have a different opinion on the topic.



    "Washington voters have repeatedly approved a higher state minimum wage, most recently with Initiative 688 in 1998. At the time, the state's minimum wage was $4.90 an hour.



    In Spokane, advocates for low-income workers are trying to set a local "living wage" for employees of large retailers in the city. The wage would be 130 percent of the state minimum wage, which would work out to about $11.12 an hour in January.



    "We're trying to do a little bit to end the cycle of poverty here," said Shane Russell, with Spokane's Peace and Justice Action League. Big-box retailers can afford to pay more, he said, and the impact on consumers would likely be small."



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