Wage wait worthwhile

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The more disposable income most citizens have, the more they'll spend. That kind of spending does wonders for local economies, and for the people earning minimum wage, a ticket out of poverty awaits only a good raise.

So why the trepidation over Coeur d'Alene increasing the minimum wage or at least putting the issue to an advisory vote? Why postpone what advocates insist is a morally and economically sound mandate when a community with so many workers in the service sector could benefit profoundly?

The arguments against government dictating what private businesses must pay are at least as impressive as those that are for it. Minimum wage jobs aren't intended to support families, goes one; they're entry points into the job market. Industry has enough challenges dealing with competition, regulation and taxes to have to worry about government taking more money out of its pockets, goes another. And one of the long-standing arguments - that making businesses pay their lowest-wage workers more could force them to cut jobs to make up the difference - is still one of the best.

In the case of a local group trying to get the city of Coeur d'Alene to require all employers within its boundaries to pay workers at least $8.75 an hour by Jan. 1 and no less than $10.25 an hour one year later, those are big steps for businesses now paying the federally mandated $7.25 minimum. Going from the current minimum to $10.25 represents an increase of more than 40 percent. It's hard to believe that most businesses could get away with raising their prices 40 percent to make up the difference, so where would those additional payroll dollars come from?

Many an economic eye is on Los Angeles, which is increasing its minimum wage in stages that will end at $15 an hour by 2020. Economists and even some advocates of raising the minimum wage acknowledge concerns over dramatic increases and the impact those increases will likely have on other wages, let alone the overall employment picture.

For our part, The Press editorial board supports the city of Coeur d'Alene's decision to table the minimum wage discussion until after the November elections, when a potential precedent-setting case in McCall might answer some important questions. In the long run, waiting a few months could save city taxpayers a bunch of cash - money that would come not just from the wealthy, but from minimum wage earners, too.

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