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Idaho, Like Biden Administration, Could Bump Up Minimum Wage

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The "Fight for $15" has swept across states in recent years in an effort to raise the minimum wage. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)
The "Fight for $15" has swept across states in recent years in an effort to raise the minimum wage. (Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)
 By Eric Tegethoff/Dan Heyman, Public News Service - ID - Producer, Contact
February 5, 2021

BOISE, Idaho - As the Biden administration pushes to raise the minimum wage as part of novel coronavirus relief legislation, a bill in the Idaho Legislature also seeks to raise wages.

State Senator Grant Burgoyne - D-Boise - has introduced Senate Bill 1028, which would raise the state's minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour by July 2023 - two years before the proposed federal legislation.

Burgoyne said many Idahoans are struggling to afford food, health care, and housing.

"The safety net has holes in it," said Burgoyne. "And the safety net does not do an adequate job of allowing someone to make a living that can support a family."

Opponents of the bill say it would hurt small businesses, leading them to cut jobs and passing the cost of the increased wage onto consumers.

Twenty-nine states have minimum wages above the federal minimum of $7.25.

Burgoyne's legislation eliminates the so-called "training wage" - a lower hourly rate often paid to students and young people. He said postsecondary education is too expensive to justify this.

He also noted that many companies have done well during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Where we see the very wealthy captains of industry having doubled and tripled their wealth through this pandemic," said Burgoyne, "it seems fair that we should bring along those who struggle in lower-paying jobs as well."

The bill still includes lower pay for tipped workers, but would increase their wages from $3.35 to $7.50 by 2023.

Burgoyne said the Legislature could provide a solution for businesses that show they'd be negatively affected by raising the minimum wage. He proposed giving them a tax credit to offset the cost.

"By giving that credit, those businesses would be held harmless," said Burgoyne. "But the workers would be in a position to be able to be able to make more money."

Burgoyne's bill currently is in the Senate Committee on State Affairs. He said he's hopeful it will gain traction if Congress moves to increase the minimum wage at the federal level.

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