Young explains opposition on bills

District 26 State Rep. Jesse Young answered questions on why he opposed two bills that dealt with increasing the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour and increased sick leave for employees at an hour-long town hall meeting March 14.

District 26 State Rep. Jesse Young answered questions on why he opposed two bills that dealt with increasing the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour and increased sick leave for employees at an hour-long town hall meeting March 14 in the Council Chambers at Port Orchard City Hall.

More than 15 people attended the meeting.

“This was more than I had last night in Bremerton,” Young said. “I wanted to come out and reach out to you and give you a chance to be heard and tell me what you think.”

A member of the audience asked the Gig Harbor Republican why he voted against a House Bill 1355 that would raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour and a bill for increased paid sick leave for employees.

He said that Washington has the highest minimum wage in the nation.

“Having the highest minimum wage hasn’t solved our problems around income disparity or around low income,” Young said.

He said he’s looking at a competitive global scale and since he’s traveled to Europe and Asia, he knows where the jobs in the 21st Century are going.

“I’m looking at the economy and say we need our kids to have jobs,” Young said. “We need people to be able to rise up and somehow afford their education and be able to get into the work force. And if you want to raise the minimum wage, what are you going to do for people that don’t have the needed skill sets and they can’t find those jobs to begin with. Jobs will go down and raising the minimum wage or having the number one minimum wage has not helped us solve that problem.”

Young said he wants to make sure people get the jobs they want and to make sure those jobs are within the state.

“I hate the Republican and Democrat-type of arguments you get, but why not go $50 and hour, why not $25 an hour,” Young said.

He cited an area national franchise restaurant that has placed interactive computer screens on its tables so that people are ordering from the table instead of a person.

“They have cut their wait staffs down to half,” Young said.

Young also mentioned that Amazon has a large warehouse, which is the size of five football fields in length.

“You want to talk about losing jobs because of the types of parameters that we put on companies to try and force them to pay people a certain wage,” he said. “An entire warehouse that 20 years ago would have hired hundreds of people is currently run by seven people. It is completely automated from the time you type the order on the computer until it’s shipped. The seven people are there to maintain the machines.”

Young feels more businesses will look at automated systems if government mandates higher wages for employees.

“It makes that type of option more viable for businesses,” he said. “The lengths that some businesses are willing to go to avoid labor costs are tremendous.”

He said Boeing spent $2 million a month for more than three years to automate their human resource systems so they could deal with more than 80 union contracts.

He said House Bill 1356 stipulates that businesses would have to provide added paid sick leave for workers in companies with a footprint of four employees.

“I believe — and stats will show — that if government require businesses that have four employees and you mandate that they have to provide paid sick leave, you’re going to see jobs for low-income people go away,” Young said.

He said that “mom-and-pop” businesses comprise a strong majority of businesses that we want to “encourage to start up and grow big.”

“When you mandate that on an employer with four people, they will go out of business and hurt low-income people,” Young said.

He told the group there has not been a lot reported about the McCleary decision and Initiative 1351 — calling to reduce class sizes in schools, but more of the attention has been on transportation.

“Those are things that legislators have to address this session,” Young said.

He said the transportation package is receiving plenty of media attention and that Gov. Jay Inslee is proposing a carbon tax.

“Most of the dialog has been around transportation,” he said.

Young told the group that the Legislature has to deal with three budgets — transportation, operational and capital.

“Funding for projects like the Dekalb Pier in Port Orchard is under the capital budget,” he said.

He said Inslee put out two budgets — the first one which is mandated by the state constitution as a balanced budget.

“He has to assume no additional revenue streams or taxes and say how he would fund the government,” Young said.

He said the governor’s second budget is from a scenario with different revenues and taxes.

During the meeting, Young noted that the county has a “hidden gem” in Olympic College.

“It can produce a lot more than people give it credit,” Young said. “We have a lot of opportunity there, especially in educating our kids.”

Among those attending the meeting were former Rep. Larry Seaquist, Commissioner Charlotte Garrido and Mayor Tim Matthes.