Pullman's proximity to Idaho creates unique minimum wage considerations

PULLMAN, WA - Washington Governor Jay Inslee is proposing a 23% increase to the minimum wage which could have a significant impact on small business owners.

Both the Pullman Chamber of Commerce and small business owners already face some unique circumstances.

The proximity of Moscow and Pullman creates many special opportunities for both communities but that proximity could also be damaging if Governor Inslee's plan to increase the minimum wage passes the legislature.

"We are in a very unique situation here on the border of Idaho where their minimum wage is already significantly lower so there are a lot of challenges with that and I think raising the minimum wage is going to especially be difficult for small businesses," said Pullman Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marie Dymkoski.

Inslee's plan is to raise Washington minimum wage at least 23% to around $11, but it's possible it could be raised to as high as $15 an hour.

Las week the Pullman Chamber of Commerce sent out a survey to Pullman business owners to see what they think about the possible increase.

Willow Falcon and her husband Mike own Glasphemy in downtown Pullman.

"I think that we are a little too close to other states with much, much, much lower minimum wages and I think it could be damaging to our community," said Falcon.

And the results of the returned surveys, so far, are pretty clear.

"From my survey already I have 75% who say that the proposed minimum wage will negatively affect their business," said Dymkoski.

It's not that employers don't want to pay their employees good wages, it's that they can't afford to and still make a profit.

"As a business owner, I'm going to make less money, you know, that's going to bring me down in wages and I'm not happy about that," said Falcon.

Other small business owners in Pullman agreed. If this passes, they'll have to cut hours, cut employees, and maybe even raise their prices.

Then there's the competition down the road.

"It's gonna be pretty easy to go across the state line eight minutes away and buy something that can be considerable cheaper there," said Dymkoski. "Labor is going to be cheaper; the cost of doing business is going to be cheaper."

Dymkoski hopes every small business in Pullman completes the Chamber's survey because she is sending the results to a committee who will hopefully have the ear of lawmakers in Olympia.

The Pullman Chamber of Commerce will be collecting survey results for about the next week.
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