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Idaho Lawmakers Introduce Minimum Wage Bill, But Indicate It’s Headed Nowhere

Bev Sykes
Wikimedia -
A view of the Idaho State Capitol from Downtown Boise

A panel in the Idaho Senate introduced a bill that would increase the state’s minimum wage to $9.25 an hour -- a $2 per hour increase -- by next year. 

But the idea already appears to be a non-starter.

Before the hearing even began, Senate State Affairs Chairman Curt McKenzie said, “To be candid to the committee, I don’t necessarily anticipate that we would have further hearings on this.”

The Republican senator from Nampa said he would hear the proposal now as a courtesy to the Democrats who worked on it and so the ideas could be publicly available.

The measure’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Mat Erpelding of Boise, made his case.

“The thing about wages that’s a problem -- it disproportionately affects certain people. Fifty-four percent of minimum wage earners are women with one child.”

Idaho has one of the nation’s highest portions of workers who earn minimum wage which is $7.25 an hour -- the federal minimum. In contrast, Washington’s minimum wage is $9.47. Oregon’s is $9.25.

Erpelding’s bill would increase the hourly wage by $1 per hour this July and by another dollar a year later. Wages for waiters and other tipped workers would increase from $3.35 to $4.25 by 2016.

After that, Idaho’s minimum wage would adjust annually according to the consumer price index.

Erpelding argued that by pegging Idaho’s minimum wage to the federal minimum, businesses could be subject to a sudden disruption if the federal government makes a significant hike in its minimum. President Obama has suggested raising the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour. Erpelding says a gradual increase would allow for a smoother transition.