States, Tired of Waiting for Congress, Raise Minimum Wage

13 STATES RAISED THEIR MINIMUM WAGES on Jan. 1, and California’s will increase on July 1. The states aren’t waiting for Congress, which hasn’t raised the  $7.25 federal minimum since the GOP George W. Bush administration. Map courtesy  BLR via PAI Chart Service.

13 STATES RAISED THEIR MINIMUM WAGES on Jan. 1, and California’s
will increase on July 1. The states aren’t waiting for Congress, which hasn’t raised the
$7.25 federal minimum since the GOP George W. Bush administration. Map courtesy
BLR via PAI Chart Service.

BOISE, Idaho —Even in Idaho, they’re getting tired of waiting for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage.

Lawmakers’ inaction in faraway Washington, D.C., has prompted a grass-roots campaign in the Gem State, one of the most Right Wing in the country, to raise the minimum wage.

Idaho adheres to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, which hasn’t risen since the GOP George W. Bush administration.  The Tea Party-GOP-run U.S. House defeated a Democratic move last year to raise the federal minimum to $10.10.

The Idaho legislature, where Republicans run the Senate 28-7 and the House 57-13, defeated similar hikes.  That’s led petitioners out into the streets, with the state AFL-CIO’s aid, to collect signatures to put a minimum wage increase on this fall’s ballot.  The hike would proportionally help more workers (7.7%) in Idaho than any other state.  The petitioners want to increase Idaho’s minimum to $9.80 hourly by 2017.

The Idahoans need 54,000 signatures by April 30, and have 9,000 now.  If the Idaho referendum wins this fall, it would join at least 13 states where minimum wage hikes took effect on Jan. 1, and 11 more, plus Washington, D.C., that will consider minimum wage hikes this year or watch previously enacted increases take effect.

The highest state minimum wage is in Washington.  An inflation adjustment increased it to $9.32 hourly on Jan. 1.  The second-highest, also after an inflation adjustment, is in Oregon, at $9.10.

Other new state minimums are Vermont ($8.73), Connecticut ($8.70), New Jersey ($8.25), New York, Rhode Island and Colorado ($8 each), Ohio ($7.95), Florida ($7.93), Arizona and Montana ($7.90 each) and Missouri ($7.50).  California, the nation’s largest state, will see its minimum rise to $9 an hour on July 1 and $10 a year after.  Washington, D.C.’s will move in four steps, by mid-2016, to $11.50.

Democratic President Barack Obama advocated a national minimum wage hike in his State of the Union address last year.  He’s expected to restate that demand in this year’s speech on Jan. 28.  The AFL-CIO wants a national minimum wage hike, too.

“The urgent business before us now is fixing what’s wrong with our economy,” federation President Richard Trumka said in mid-December.  “The real problem is that unemployment is too high and wages are too low…We call on Congress to enact a jobs bill, invest in our future, raise the minimum wage to $10.10, and devote its full attention to restoring full employment and raising wages.”

-PAI