An increase in the state minimum wage that keeps the discounted rate for tipped workers like waitresses and waiters better paid than under federal law easily cleared the Idaho Senate on Tuesday.
“I know it’s not what everybody wanted,” Democratic Floor Leader Marguerite McLaughlin of Orofino said. “But it’s a good compromise.”
The bill was sent to the House for final action on a 31-1 vote. House Speaker Michael Simpson indicated there was support for the measure there. And Gov. Phil Batt has indicated he will sign it.
Democratic Sen. Lin Whitworth of Pocatello was the lone dissenter. Even a state minimum wage for tipped employees that is more than 50 percent higher than the federal minimum is still not a liveable wage, Whitworth said.
Republican leaders in the Senate made raising the minimum wage a must for this session. They learned a lesson from their GOP counterparts in Congress, where the Democratic minority managed to claim credit for increasing the federal minimum wage last year.
The bill brings Idaho’s minimum wage in line with that increase in two phases. It would rise from $4.25 an hour to $4.75 on April 1, and then to the new federal minimum of $5.15 on Sept. 1. The state proposal also includes a training wage of $4.25 an hour for workers under 20 years old during their first 90 days.
But unlike the federal law that took effect last fall, the Idaho minimum wage for tipped employees would remain at $3.19 until Sept. 1 when it rises 16 cents an hour to $3.35.
Idaho’s so-called tip credit - the amount the wage is discounted in consideration of additional income from tips - has been over a dollar higher than the federal minimum for the last six years.
The new federal minimum for tipped employees remains at $2.13 an hour unless their tips are not enough to raise their hourly rate to $5.15. Then employers would have to raise the wage until it and tips do equal $5.15.
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