A number of people made a pre-dawn trip to the Idaho Statehouse this morning, making their way to an East Wing hearing room where the Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee briefly took up the issue of the minimum wage.
But the public wasn't heard from on the issue—at least not yet. This morning, the committee was simply holding a so-called "print hearing." Simply put, the committee was mulling on whether the proposed measure—put forth by Ketchum Democratic Sen. Michelle Stennett—should proceed for a full committee hearing where the public will be able to weigh in on the measure.
"More and more young people are leaving the state," Stennett told her colleagues. "This is not sustainable."
Stennett's bill would see Idaho's current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour increase to $8.50 by July of this year and $9.75 in July 2015, with incremental increases tied to the U.S. government's consumer price index. Gradual increases are also being proposed for seasonal employees and workers who depend on tips.
Stennett also pointed to what she called a fair amount of misperception of who in Idaho is currently earning the minimum wage.
"Many think they're part-time, they live with their parents or are in after-school jobs," she said. "But 40 percent [of minimum wage earners] say it's the sole source of income in their household. Twenty-eight percent have children. Fifty-six percent of them are women, and often single."
And while Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bart Davis agreed to move forward with the full hearing, he did give some indication of where the debate was heading.
"I was here in 2007 when we coupled Idaho's minimum wage to the federal minimum wage," said Davis. "Since then, Idahoans have received $2.10 in increases that they otherwise would not have received during a very difficult recession. I'm troubled that we now want to decouple us from the federal wage standard. Idaho needs to be very careful anytime it wants to decouple itself, and many of us worked very hard to couple us to that standard. I throw that out for public consideration as this debate goes forward."