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Idaho Lawmakers Looking To Bump Up Minimum Wage

Fibonacci Blue/Flickr
The "Fight for $15" has swept across states in recent years in an effort to raise the minimum wage.

Amid national discussion about increasing the minimum wage, the Idaho Legislature is also seeking 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.

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.