Idaho Democratic lawmakers tried, but they couldn't convince their Republican legislative colleagues that Idaho's minimum wage needs to be boosted above $5.15 an hour. The bill, introduced by Boise Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart and Moscow Rep. Shirley Ringo, finally got a hearing Thursday, but it was swiftly killed in committee.
Republicans argued that no increase is needed since the state's unemployment rate is already low. They also listened to employers who are losing $20-an-hour folks to better jobs. But this debate wasn't about the middle class: It's about more than 30,000 Idahoans who now make less than $6.15 an hour and especially about the tens of thousands more who earn $7 to $12 in low-wage retail and service-industry jobs. Bumping the minimum wage up a dollar an hour would nudge wages higher across the board and get that many more people closer to the living wage they need, somewhere between $12 and $20 depending on household size. Yes, prices would rise a little bit as employers pass along the cost to customers. But if all workers have more money, don't we come out even -or at least closer to even?
The bottom line is that it's flat-out immoral that anyone - anyone, a teenager, a disabled person, a retiree on a fixed income - makes only $10,712 a year in 2006 if they work full-time at the minimum wage. And when people are working two or three low-wage jobs to make ends meet and thus having less time to spend with their families - well, where's the sense in that?