Ad Watch: McKenna, the minimum wage and his salary

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by ROBERT MAK / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on September 28, 2012 at 10:09 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 25 at 1:04 PM

An ad paid for by Democrats and unions blasts Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, charging that the man currently serving as state Attorney General says one thing while doing the opposite.

In the ad, the narrator says: "McKenna personally lobbied to increase his own salary up to 148-thousand dollars, all while using his office to try blocking a 12-cent increase in the minimum wage."

Did McKenna really try to block a 12-cent increase in the minimum wage?

Washington voters passed an initiative in 1998 that requires the state to increase the minimum wage by the rate of inflation annually on September 30. The state uses the CPI-W (Consumer Price Index for urban and clerical workers) to calculate the minimum wage boost.

In most years, that price index climbs, and every year Washington's minimum wage went up accordingly. But the law didn't anticipate what happened between 2008 and 2009 when the economy went into a tailspin, driving down the CPIW.

The initiative only spells out how to increase the minimum wage, not decrease it, so during that period, the state left the minimum wage the same.

In 2010 the price index started to recover. That's when McKenna weighed in with his opinion that the minimum wage should stay the same. He argued that the wage never went down -- and the price index was only recovering what it had lost.

McKenna said the intent of the law is to make sure workers' purchasing power keeps up with inflation. And if prices aren't really higher, the wage shouldn't automatically go up, he said.

In the end, however, the state ignored McKenna's opinion and raised the wage by 12 cents.

Did McKenna lobby to raise his salary up to $148,000?

The Washington Citizens' Commission sets the salaries for the state's elected officials.

McKenna did indeed talk to commissioners by phone and supported the idea of a higher salary. But the year was 2007, when the state had a budget surplus. All state employees got at least 3 percent raises, and many got 5 percent or more.

The commission gave catch-up raises to all state elected officials, and the Attorney General was one of them.

Two years later, after the housing market and economy had crashed, McKenna told the commission again that elected officials shouldn't get any raise because state employees weren't getting one either.

Conclusion

The commercial errs when it connects the two issues -- McKenna's salary and the minimum wage.

The phrase "all while" implies McKenna engaged in two activities at the same time. In reality, his support for raising his salary was in 2007, while his opinion on the minimum wage came in 2010 -- two very differenct economic times.

That leads us to say label the claim in this ad as MISLEADING.

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