Support for the Idaho Legislature to set a state minimum wage rate, that is higher than the 2017 federal minimum wage and will then adjust automatically based on a scientifically valid index linked to the cost-of-living in Idaho.
As an ongoing state policy, the state minimum wage should be at least as high as the federal minimum wage rate but not limited by that rate.
This position was adopted in November of 2017.
Having the minimum wage set by state legislative action is preferable to one set by market forces that could cause some businesses to pay lower wages than similar ones in other parts of Idaho. For instance, those communities that share a border with a state having a high minimum wage such as Washington and Oregon would necessarily pay workers a higher wage or lose employees to businesses across state lines.
In border communities with states that pay a higher minimum wage, many retailers, especially fast-food outlets, pay wages comparable to those in the neighboring state. Fast-food and other minimum wage workers in other parts of the state not near the border may not be paid as well because the market forces are not the same.
The federal rate has not kept up with cost of living, which is contrary to the original intent of establishing a minimum wage.
The state’s minimum wage should not be tied to the federal rate but, rather, a living wage calculated for Idaho. Such a rate should be linked to a scientifically valid index that is updated at least annually. Also, it should be stipulated a decrease in the index would not adversely affect (lower) the calculated wage. It is better to have legislation that mandated the rate be automatically adjusted without the need for further legislation, rather than to have to relegislate it year after year.
The LWV of Moscow 2012 Poverty Study defines a living wage as a “theoretical wage level that allows the earner to afford adequate shelter, food and other necessities of life. The living wage should be substantial enough to ensure that no more than 30 percent of it needs to be spent on housing. The goal of the living wage is to allow employees to earn enough income for a satisfactory standard of living and the ability to deal with emergencies without resorting to welfare or other public assistance.”
In 2017, the Idaho and federal minimum wage are both at $7.25 per hour. The living wage for Idaho is $10.39 per hour for an adult working full time at 2,080 hours annually, according to the 2017 wage calculator by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.