Democrats want to raise Idaho's minimum wage

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by Scott Evans

KREM.com

Posted on January 30, 2014 at 8:04 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 30 at 11:16 AM

BOISE -- Some state lawmakers want to see an increase in the minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 an hour.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.

There is as bill in the works at the Idaho Statehouse that will be presented in the coming weeks to begin that conversation in the Gem State.

This is a complicated issue that goes beyond raising the minimum wage. Many say we need to do something to make sure Idahoans are making wages that they can live on.

At The Dish in downtown Boise business is good. Co-owner Jered Couch is one of many small business owners who fear raising the minimum wage could negatively impact business.

"We'd have to make sure we take a look at our costs of doing business and it would translate into higher prices eventually," said Couch.

Sen. Michelle Stennett is one of three Democrats working on a bill that would begin the conversation of increasing the state minimum wage.

"It's baby steps. We have to start the dialog, we have to start the conversation," said Stennett.

She says the wage is just a small part of the conversation to improve the economy.

While there is no number yet on what she wants to see the minimum wage increased to, she says it will probably be under $10 an hour.

"We can't keep the people that are skilled here, and we need to do something about that to make sure people can earn a living wage, raise their kids here, be here, and we're not doing that right now," said Stennett.

Over at the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, Director David Adler agrees this conversation needs to be had.

He says 31,000 Idahoans currently make minimum wage -- that's 7.3 percent of the population -- the highest percentage in the country.

"That's a very dubious distinction," said Adler.

He compares Idaho's economy to Washington, which has the highest minimum wage in the country.

"You see the sharp contrast in terms of quality of life enjoyed by Idahoans and their neighbors to the west," said Adler.

Couch says he is all for paying people more, but it comes with a price.

"I would think prices would go up, you pay people more, you got to charge more," said Couch.

Stennett says her bill should be ready in a week or two.  When it is ready, she says her Republican colleagues in the Senate State Affairs Committee will consider the bill.

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