BLACKFOOT — Anne Nesse marched along Shilling Street and high-fived paradegoers Saturday to help raise awareness about an initiative to hike the minimum wage in Idaho. She is part of RaiseIdaho.org, a statewide movement.
Nesse, originally from Coeur d’Alene, feels so strongly about the need to increase the minimum wage for workers in Idaho that she ran for a seat in the Legislature last year to address the problem.
“Idaho leads the nation in minimum-wage workers,” Nesse said. “It’s disastrous to the economy, these workers aren’t shopping for anything, and they’re barely getting by.”
RaiseIdaho.org. is working to collect 84,000 signatures to ensure that an initiative to raise the minimum wage gets on the ballot next November.
Nesse said House Bill 1108, which was passed into law last year, will make it more difficult to get initiatives on the ballot.
HB 1108 will require signatures on petitions to be collected within the state’s 18 legislative districts.
“Basically, they have taken away our legal guns,” Nesse said.
“The proposed initiative would increase the minimum wage in Idaho to $9.80 over a three year period — the pay rate would raise to $8.10 on Jan. 1, 2015 then go up to $8.95 on Jan. 1, 2016 and increase to $9.80 on Jan. 1, 2017.
Nesse said 40 to 60 percent of Idaho residents are at poverty level and currently 230,000 Idahoans are dependent on food stamps.
Washington, Montana and Oregon have passed initiatives that raised the minimum wage in those state.
“The only way the minimum wage has ever been increased is through initiative,” Nesse said. “The states that have done this have recovered from the recession faster.”
Nesse will be at the Eastern Idaho State Fair collecting signatures all week. Saturday she said the group collected about 10 signatures an hour. RaiseIdaho.org is stationed in the Agricultural building in booth number 8.
For more information about efforts to raise the minimum wage in Idaho, go to RaiseIdaho.org. Nesse said petitions can be downloaded from the site. The group has until April to collect the needed signatures.