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King County business urges change to minimum wage bill to save local economy

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(The Center Square) – Businesses in unincorporated parts of King County are bracing for a potential minimum wage increase, but some are urging the county council to adjust the legislation to a model that could save the local economy.

Next month, the King County Council will vote on a proposed bill that would increase the hourly minimum wage in unincorporated King County to $20.29. That would tie the cities of Tukwila and Renton for the highest minimum wage in the nation.

The bill was adjusted so that small businesses with five or fewer employees and an annual gross revenue of less than $2 million would have an hourly minimum wage rate of $3 less ($17.29). The reduction would decrease annually by 50 cents until no reduction remains. However, some businesses say that won’t change the impacts to the area.

Cascadia Pizza is one of the businesses that could be impacted by this bill. Thomas Reinhard, one of three co-owners of the pizza restaurant, told The Center Square that locations outside of Maple Valley would have to condense its hours of operation, cut employee hours from 40 a week to 25, and raise the prices of their food items because it would be impacted by the law.

Reinhard added that the bill puts his business at a competitive disadvantage because other pizza restaurants 10 minutes down the road are not subject to the wage increase, because they are within city limits. Thus, keeping their food prices low.

Cascadia Pizza owners are calling on the King County Council to implement a “total compensation model,” which includes an employee’s base salary, as well as the value of any benefits and tips received.

“Total compensation saves this bill for our industry, it really takes into account how much people are earning in our industry,” Reinhard said to The Center Square. “If we can get a total compensation model in [the proposed bill] and permanently – our employees’ livelihoods will be saved, as well as our business.”

The bill was given a do-pass recommendation by the King County Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee last week. It is now up for a final council vote. Prior to the vote, the owners and employees of Cascadia Pizza spoke to the council, urging for a change to the bill.

King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski halted the public comment period to inquire about the Cascadia Pizza owners and employees about the potential impacts. Reinhard said he is working with Dembowski’s staff to schedule a follow-up meeting before the final vote.