Proposed minimum wage hike; what do local business owners think?

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- A bill proposing to increase Idaho's minimum wage to $9.75/ hour by mid 2015 was passed into printing.

If the bill is passed, the minimum wage in Idaho will increase to $8.50 per hour on July 1 of this year, then to $9.75 per hour on July 1, 2015. For tipped employees, it will increase from $3.35 per hour to $3.80 per hour on July 1 of this year, and then to $4.25 per hour by July 1, 2015. In 2016, the minimum wage would go up annually to keep up with inflation.

Sarah Fendley, the owner of Big City Coffee said she already pays her employees well over minimum wage, so this bill wouldn't affect her right away. But if the minimum wage increases every year with inflation, she may run into some trouble.

Fendley said she agrees with the proposal, but with that annual increase she will have to increase wages, and in turn will most likely increase prices. She says increasing prices on coffee and muffins can only go so far.

"We're working in a coffee shop, and at some point, it kind of has to max out; we're only going to be able to do so much business," Fendley said. "It's kind of like if your rent goes up and up and up. How do you do that?"

Some advocates for the bill say increasing the minimum wage will be good for local businesses.

Adrienne Evans, a spokeswoman for the United Action for Idaho, said the more money employees have in their pocket, the more money goes into the local economy.

"Over time, historically, the two do balance out, but what it does do is enable young people and old people alike to be able to work 40 hours a week and not be living in poverty," Evans said.

Evans mentioned that most local businesses she's talked to pay over minimum wage, like Big City Coffee, it's the large corporations that this will force to pay their employees more.

"Essentially, it's corporations that are not paying higher wage, and then we subsidize them again by giving them tax breaks, so we're really not investing in our local communities and our local folks," Evans said.