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The share of Idaho workers earning minimum wage has grown from 5 percent in 2011 to 7.7 percent in 2012. The growth has put Idaho in the top spot for the largest share of minimum wage workers in the country. How did that happen? And what’s being done to reverse the trend?

Idaho House Votes On Minimum Wage Bill

Image of the Idaho Statehouse.
Samantha Wright
Boise State Public Radio
Idaho Statehouse

The Idaho House has voted to ban cities from hiking the minimum wage. The bill prohibits local governments from instituting ordinances to raise the minimum wage. It also bans doing it through ballot initiatives.

Supporters of the bill, including Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, say it’s not about wages, it’s about keeping laws uniform across the state.

“When it comes to minimum wage, a patchwork approach is bad policy. Wages in Idaho can’t be resolved adequately by a heavy-handed approach that hurts business,” says Malek.

Opponents of the bill, like Rep. Mark Nye, D-Pocatello, said communities should be able to choose when it comes to setting a minimum wage.

“As we sit here, we’re telling a city what they can or cannot do, or should or should not do, on a given single issue. It takes away the rights of the local people to decide,” says Nye.

Opponents also have argued the minimum wage should be a living wage, and that amount varies from community to community.

But House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane, R-Nampa, said businesses can always pay employees more than the legal minimum wage.

“Minimum wage was never intended to be a living wage. Minimum wage is just exactly what is described, it’s the floor, it’s the starting point,” says Crane.

Opponents said the legislation takes away local control and ensures that Idaho will remain a low-wage state.

The bill would make the state minimum wage of $7.25. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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