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Senator denies minimum wage hearing

Posted: 5:23 PM, Jan 28, 2016
Updated: 2016-01-29 01:13:18Z

A proposed bill that would raise the minimum wage in Idaho has already been rejected by a Senate committee chairman.

Representative Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, is once more fighting to raise Idaho's minimum wage requirement. His proposal would raise the bottom wage from $7.25/hr to $8.25/hr by July of this year. Then, in 2017, wages would again increase a dollar to $9.25/hr. It's essentially the same bill he introduced last year which died in committee.

This year, the bill is having a hard time getting that far. The chair of the Senate State Affairs Committee, Senator Curt McKenzie, says a minimum wage bill won't be heard through him.

"I don't see the votes in my committee, on the Senate floor, on the House floor, on the House State Affairs Committee," said McKenzie, R-Nampa. "I don't think the Governor would sign it if it came to his desk. I don't think as a Republican state that my party necessarily support raising the minimum wage. I don't think my constituents support it and I just don't think it gets through the process."

Erpelding says if he won't get a hearing in a committee for his bill, he will introduce it as a personal bill. The deadline to do that would be tomorrow, this Friday.

Proponents of raising the minimum wage have already spoken out against McKenzie. The group Lift Up, Idaho sent out a release calling for a hearing.

"Minimum wage is an issue worthy of a public discussion given the dire situation facing a great many Idaho workers, their families and our state," the statement read.

This is not the only bill McKenzie is denying, he says. It's up to him to decide what gets heard and he relies on the likelihood of success to determine which proposals make the cut.

"I've treated this the same as every other issue," he said. "If I don't think that there's the votes in the committee to get it through I don't have hearings on it. That includes issues when it was my personal bill."