State Politics

Idaho House votes to block localities on higher minimum wage

On a party line vote, the House Friday moved to block localities from enacting a minimum wage higher than the state rate of $7.25 an hour.

The 55-14 vote, with all Democrats opposing, moves the measure to the Senate.

Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, the main sponsor, said the bill only sought clarify existing law and “does not open up Idaho for a huge polcy shift on the issue of minimum wage.”

But much of the 40-minute debate was taken up by economic arguments for and against a higher minimum wage, along with the state’s proper role in local affairs.

“When the federal government tells us we have to do something or we don’t, we react strongly as far as our objection,” said Rep. Mark Nye, D-Pocatello. “But now as we sit here, we’re telling a city what they can or cannot do....It takes away the right of the local people to decide.”

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, countered that both the federal government, at its founding, and localities were created by states.

“There’s no inconsistency in addressing state authority,” he said.

In committee, the bill received the support of retailers, business owners and pro-business groups and drew criticism from a labor group.

Idaho’s minimum wage, along with that of 13 other states, is matched to the federal rate. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have set their minimum wage higher than the federal rate. In fifteen states and the District of Columbia, the minimum wage is indexed to inflation. Five states have no minimum wage laws, and two, Georgia and Wyoming, have lower minimums, but the federal rate applies.

The District of Columbia currently has the highest hourly wage at $10.50, but some localities have set higher rates. Twenty-three local jurisdictions have set wages higher than their state’s minimums, and several cities will reach $15 per hour as early as 2018 after phase-ins.

Here are state statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, more data and a map on states and localities, and the status of legislation around the country.

Bill Dentzer: 208-377-6438, @IDSBillD