Boise - Close to 40 people attended an Idaho Senate committee meeting this morning to indicate their support for legislation to raise Idaho’s minimum wage; the committee agreed to introduce the bill, but there’s no promise that it’ll go any further.
“I appreciate you being here,” Senate State Affairs Committee Chairman Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, told the crowd. “The signup where you signed in does become part of our official records.”
Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, presented the bill to raise Idaho’s current $7.25 an hour minimum wage in two steps, to $8.50 an hour on July 2, 2014, and to $9.75 an hour on July 1, 2015, and then peg increases thereafter to inflation.
“The current minimum wage in Idaho is about half the amount that it takes to meet the basic needs of one adult,” Stennett told the committee. “A growing number of people have to work almost two full-time jobs at minimum wage just to meet their basic needs.”
Stennett noted that Idaho has the highest percentage of its workers earning minimum wage, a figure that’s been growing. “Young people are leaving the state … at the same time a growing number of seniors are entering the state,” she said. “Such trends aren’t sustainable for our economy, and that’s why I have brought this bill forward.”
Stennett said the average person receiving minimum wage is a 35-year-old adult, 36 percent are 40 or older and 56 percent are women.
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, noted that the bill would “de-couple” Idaho’s minimum wage from the federal minimum wage, undoing a change that he and other lawmakers worked to enact in 2007.
“Idaho did have a history of lagging behind the federal minimum wage standard,” Davis said. “By coupling Idaho to the federal minimum wage, which is now being struck, Idahoans have received an increase of $2.10 in minimum wage that they otherwise would not have received during a very difficult recession, when they needed it. And I am troubled that we now are wanting, a few years later, to de-couple us from the national federal minimum wage standard.”
Davis supported introducing the bill but said that piece of it concerns him. “I throw that out for public consideration as this debate goes forward,” he said.
Backers are currently gathering signatures for an initiative to raise Idaho’s minimum wage; they must gather more than 53,000 by April to place the measure on the November ballot.