POCATELLO, Idaho - Democrat leaders are out rallying cities across eastern Idaho on Tuesday in their fight to raise the state's minimum wage from the current $7.25 up to $10.10 per hour.
Current democratic U.S. representative candidate Richard Stallings, was joined by congressional candidates Nels Mitchell and Bert Marley during the day's tour starting in Idaho Falls, making their way to Pocatello, and eventually to Twin Falls and Boise.
Stallings said there are five-thousand minimum wage workers living in the second congressional district and 29,000 throughout the rest of the state.
He said the current minimum wage is not enough to sustain a reasonable standard of living for many of those people who are trying to raise families across the state.
"These folks are not going to put this money in a Swiss bank," Stallings said. "They are going to spend it locally on their kids."
State senator Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, said he spent a lot of time volunteering at the Idaho Food Bank and said there is a tremendous need for this hike in wages.
"When you have the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, people can't meet their food needs and they have to provide for a roof over their heads, transportation to get to work, and clothes for their kids," Lacey pointed-out.
This rally comes at a time when the campaign trails are starting to heat-up for everyone, and hot-button issues such as this will be an eggshell topic for both democrat and republican lawmakers.
Stallings said he voted for raising the minimum wage during his time serving in Congress, and is disappointed to see that current U.S. Senator Jim Risch voted against raising the minimum wage when proposed during President Obama's term in office.
"The Senate could pass it, the House could pass it tomorrow if it weren't for these mean-spirited villains, these bad guys, because they just like to punish the poor (people)," Stallings said.
However, state Representative Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, said that is not a fair accusation.
"I would love to help everyone I see on the street, but the reality is, I work a full time job and work in the legislature to feed my family, too," Packer said. "Do we need to increase the standard of living in Idaho? Absolutely. But just assuming that raising the minimum wage would fix the problem is erroneous. There's a lot to the picture and we need to look at the big picture and have a methodical outlook on it rather than just the minimum wage."
She said increasing the minimum wage would create more problems for businesses and put a lot of people out of work.
"We can't just give money to everyone out there, because where does the money come from? Someone has to pay for the taxes and any increases we do. Business owners will have to pay the difference in the minimum wage when we increase it," Packer added.
But Stallings, Mitchell, and Lacey all say this will not be the case, and instead raising the minimum wage will allow more people to cut down on the number of jobs they have to work, which will allow more jobs to open-up. They also said this will allow more people to spend more money within local communities.
"A quarter here, a dime there. You can make that happen. You might not be able to make three bucks, but you can surely make a little at a time happen, and it will not impact the bottom line. In fact, it will help businesses because then more people will be spending more money in those stores," Lacey said.
Idaho State Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, introduced the possibility of raising the minimum wage to $9.19 per hour over the course of four years this past March during the legislative session. However, it failed before getting through the committee.