NBC Bay Area
A protester holds a sign in this file image from a rally demanding a higher minimum wage in Oakland.
California could soon have the highest minimum wage in the country.
A bill approved by the state senate would set minimum wage at $13 an hour by 2017. Lawmakers passed SB935 on a party-line, 21-12 vote Thursday, sending it to the Assembly.
Tipped workers would also make $13 an hour.
After 2017, minimum wage would rise each year to keep pace with inflation.
The bill's author, Democratic Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco, says it's needed to help lift low-wage earners out of poverty.
California's current minimum wage is $8 an hour and will rise to $9 an hour starting in July. It goes up to $10 an hour in 2016.
Under Leno's bill, it would go to $11 an hour in 2015, $12 an hour in 2016 and $13 an hour in 2017.
Republican lawmakers say the state should focus on building job skills.
Cities in California already have the right to set a higher minimum wage. In San Francisco, for example, the minimum wage is $10.74.
In the North Bay, the city of Sonoma's minimum wage is set at $15.38, the highest municipal minimum wage in the United States.
Further north, a Seattle City Council committee approved a $15-an-hour municipal minimum wage to be voted on by the full council next week.