[Vision2020] In D.C., Bill Sali Quick to Take Lead

Sue Hovey suehovey at moscow.com
Sat Jan 13 19:41:41 PST 2007

Re: [Vision2020] In D.C., Bill Sali Quick to Take LeadI think I understand.  Bill Sali is much too involved to read the daily news.  He has been busy designing resolutions to produce a unanimous vote and is having a bit of trouble getting the delegation from Oklahoma on board.   

Sue Hovey 
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Art Deco 
  To: Vision 2020 
  Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2007 7:39 AM
  Subject: Re: [Vision2020] In D.C., Bill Sali Quick to Take Lead

  For those that are not registered with the NY Times, here is the article that Mark referenced:



  January 11, 2007
  For $7.93 an Hour, It's Worth a Trip Across a State Line 
  LIBERTY LAKE, Wash., Jan. 9 - Just eight miles separate this town on the Washington side of the state border from Post Falls on the Idaho side. But the towns are nearly $3 an hour apart in the required minimum wage. Washington pays the highest in the nation, just under $8 an hour, and Idaho has among the lowest, matching 21 states that have not raised the hourly wage beyond the federal minimum of $5.15.

  Nearly a decade ago, when voters in Washington approved a measure that would give the state's lowest-paid workers a raise nearly every year, many business leaders predicted that small towns on this side of the state line would suffer.

  But instead of shriveling up, small-business owners in Washington say they have prospered far beyond their expectations. In fact, as a significant increase in the national minimum wage heads toward law, businesses here at the dividing line between two economies - a real-life laboratory for the debate - have found that raising prices to compensate for higher wages does not necessarily lead to losses in jobs and profits. 

  Idaho teenagers cross the state line to work in fast-food restaurants in Washington, where the minimum wage is 54 percent higher. That has forced businesses in Idaho to raise their wages to compete. 

  Business owners say they have had to increase prices somewhat to keep up. But both states are among the nation's leaders in the growth of jobs and personal income, suggesting that an increase in the minimum wage has not hurt the overall economy. 

  "We're paying the highest wage we've ever had to pay, and our business is still up more than 11 percent over last year," said Tom Singleton, who manages a Papa Murphy's takeout pizza store here, with 13 employees. 

  His store is flooded with job applicants from Idaho, Mr. Singleton said. Like other business managers in Washington, he said he had less turnover because the jobs paid more.

  By contrast, an Idaho restaurant owner, Rob Elder, said he paid more than the minimum wage because he could not find anyone to work for the Idaho minimum at his Post Falls restaurant, the Hot Rod Cafe. 

  "At $5.15 an hour, I get zero applicants - or maybe a guy with one leg who wouldn't pass a drug test and wouldn't show up on Saturday night because he wants to get drunk with his buddies," Mr. Elder said. 

  For years, economists have debated the effect that raising the minimum wage would have on business. While the federal minimum wage has not gone up for 10 years, 29 states have raised their wage beyond the federal minimum.

  These increases, according to critics like Brendan Flanagan of the National Restaurant Association, are a burden on the small, mostly family-run businesses in fast food and agriculture that employ workers at the lowest end of the pay scale. 

  "We see the political momentum for this," said Mr. Flanagan, a vice president at the association, "but we cannot ignore what our members are telling us, which is that it will lead to job losses."

  But the state's major business lobby, the Association of Washington Business, is no longer fighting the minimum-wage law, which is adjusted every year in line with the consumer price index. 

  "You don't see us screaming out loud about this," said Don Brunell, president of the trade group, which represents 6,300 members.

  "It's almost a no-brainer," Mr. Brunell said, that the federal minimum should go higher. Association officials say they would like to see some flexibility for rural and small-town businesses, however.

  Washington's robust economy, which added nearly 90,000 jobs last year, is proof that even with the country's highest minimum wage, "this is a great place to do business," Mr. Brunell said. 

  During a recession five years ago, the same group had argued that Washington's high minimum wage law would send businesses fleeing to Idaho. The group sent out a news release with a criticism of the law from John Fazzari, who owns a family-run pizza business in Clarkston, Wash., just minutes from the Idaho town of Lewiston. 

  But now Mr. Fazzari says business has never been better, and he has no desire to move to Idaho. 

  "To tell you the truth, my business is fantastic," he said in an interview. "I've never done as much business in my life."

  Mr. Fazzari employs 42 people at his pizza parlor. New workers make the Washington minimum, $7.93 an hour, but veteran employees make more. To compensate for the required annual increase in the minimum wage, Mr. Fazzari said he raises prices slightly. But he said most customers barely notice. 

  He sells more pizza, he said, because he has a better product, and because his customers are loyal. 

  "If you look 10 years down the road, we will probably have no minimum wage jobs on this side of the border, and lots of higher-income jobs," Mr. Fazzari said.

  Job figures from both states tend to support his point. While Idaho leads the nation in new job growth, it has a far higher percentage of minimum-wage jobs than Washington. Minimum-wage positions make up just 2.4 percent of the jobs in Washington, while about 13 percent of the jobs in Idaho pay at or less than the proposed federal minimum wage, according to a study done for the state last year.

  Part of the difference could be accounted for by a lower cost of living in Idaho and the higher percentage of technology, manufacturing and government jobs in Washington, economists say. Still, it is hard to find a teenager in Idaho who lives anywhere near Washington who is willing to work for $5.15 an hour. 

  "Are you kidding? There are so many jobs nearby that pay way more than minimum wage," said Jennifer Stadtfeldt, who is 17 and lives in Coeur d'Alene, which is just a few minutes from Washington. She pointed out that Taco Bell, McDonald's and other fast-food outlets in her town were posting signs trying to entice entry-level workers with a starting pay of $7 an hour.

  The House today passed a bill increasing the minimum wage, and about 13 million workers would see a pay raise if the Senate and President Bush approve it. Mr. Bush has said he would approve the wage increase so long as concerns of small-business owners were taken into account; the Senate has not yet taken up the bill. 

  Several studies have concluded that modest changes in the minimum wage have little effect on employment. A study two months ago by an economist at Washington State University seemed to back the experience of Clarkston and other border towns in Washington. The economist, David Holland, said job loss was minimal when higher wages were forced on all businesses. About 97 percent of all minimum-wage workers were better off when wages went up, he wrote.

  But other business groups argue that an increase would hurt consumers and workers at the low end. 

  In a survey released on the eve of the November elections - in which voters in six states considered raising their minimum wages - the National Restaurant Association said restaurants expected to raise their prices and eliminate some jobs if the voters approved the measures. The initiatives all passed. 

  Here on this border, business owners have found small ways to raise their prices, and customers say they have barely noticed. 

  "We used to have a coupon, $3 off on any family-size pizza, and we changed that to $2 off," said Mr. Singleton, of Papa Murphy's. "I haven't heard a single complaint."

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Mark Solomon 
  To: Tom Hansen ; Vision 2020 
  Sent: Thursday, January 11, 2007 7:27 AM
  Subject: Re: [Vision2020] In D.C., Bill Sali Quick to Take Lead

  Too bad Sali probably doesn't read the NY Times which features an excellent article today on the effect of minimum wage laws on border towns in WA and ID. No, Moscow doesn't get a mention, but Post Falls and Clarkston do.



  At 6:06 AM -0800 1/11/07, Tom Hansen wrote:
    >From today's (January 11, 2007) Spokesman Review -

    What Rep. Sali voted against:
    HR 1 - Homeland security measures
    HR 2 - Increase of minimum wage

    What Rep. Sali is sponsoring:
    HR 26 - Commends Boise State University for their victory in the Fiesta Bowl
    (other bills establishing English as the official US language and a
    balnced-budget amendment)


    In D.C., Bill Sali quick to take lead
    Sense of humor key to his approach
    Parker Howell
    Staff writer
    January 11, 2007

    New Idaho Congressman Bill Sali proposed a bill Wednesday to combat obesity
    by reducing the Earth's gravity, saying that's no more unreasonable than the
    Democrats' legislation to increase the federal minimum wage.

    Both defy "natural laws," he said.

    "The well-intentioned desire to help the poor apparently will not be
    restrained by the rules and principles of the free market that otherwise do
    restrain American businesses and workers," Sali told the House of
    Representatives. "Apparently, Congress can change the rules that would
    otherwise affect the affairs of mankind."

    The Democratic-controlled House voted 315-116 to raise the federal minimum
    wage to $7.25 an hour, with more than 80 Republicans joining Democrats to
    pass it. But Sali stuck to his stance that the market, not government,
    should determine how much workers are worth to employers.

    "Obviously, it was a facetious notion to suspend the laws of gravity," he
    told The Spokesman-Review by phone from Washington, D.C., about his "Obesity
    Reduction and Health Promotion Act," which proposed helping Americans shed
    pounds by cutting gravity by 10 percent. "The same is true of the act we
    took today."

    In his first few days on the job, Sali, 52, has been elected leader of the
    small freshman class of Republicans, was invited to a meeting with President
    Bush and voted against several bills sponsored by Democrats.

    Although Sali spent 16 years as a state representative from Kuna, moving to
    Washington, D.C., has taken some getting used to, he said.

    "Things are so much bigger in terms of scale and scope here," he said. "In
    the Idaho Legislature, for example, I didn't have any staff. It was just

    He now has to deal with OSHA inspections of his office and training his
    employees in ethics and anti-discrimination policies, he said.

    As president of his class, he is helping fellow freshmen learn legislative
    processes and procedures, he said. On the advice of past class presidents,
    he is coordinating social events with new Democrats - both for building
    relationships and for the "practical benefit" of moving legislation.

    Sali and a small group of other legislators met with President Bush at the
    White House last week to discuss the Iraq war.

    "It was really something to be in there," he said. "It was kind of one of
    those 'pinch me' moments."

    He said Bush has "spent a lot of time listening" to military commanders and
    will act on their advice.

    "The notion that we're going to end sectarian violence over there, I think,
    is not even on the table; the president expressed that through a number of
    his people," he said, adding that making peace between warring factions is
    "not achievable."

    "I don't think that's our job. I do think our job is to help make sure this
    fledgling Iraqi government is going to stand on its own two feet," he said.
    "There's a bunch of pent-up emotion over there and a lot of pent-up desire.
    We may end up with a civil war before they get things straightened out. In
    the affairs of mankind, sometimes that's what you need."

    Sali has also participated in several House votes, including the
    $2.10-an-hour minimum wage increase, to take effect over two years. The
    increase is arbitrary, not tied to how much an employee's work is really
    worth, he said.

    "It's just to give people a perceived pay raise," he said. "The underlying
    problem is government spending."

    His obesity speech is characteristic of the congressman's outspoken style,
    said former colleagues from the Idaho Legislature.

    "That's his sense of humor," said Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls.

    Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, agreed, recalling a time Sali proposed licensing
    legislators when lawmakers discussed licensing contractors. Even though he
    didn't plan to introduce it, he actually held up a completed bill.

    "He's a very principled man, and he's not afraid to stand by himself if he
    has to," Hart said. "I think he's already showing that. He hasn't changed
    since he's been in the Legislature."

    But Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d'Alene, said using the logic of Sali's
    obesity proposal, legislators should revoke government regulations that
    benefit businesses as well.

    Congressional Democrats will likely succeed in their "100 Hours" plan to
    pass several bills within the first 100 working hours of the new Congress,
    Sali said. But he said Democrats are circumventing the committee process and
    claiming to know what Americans need, which is "elitist" and "arrogant."

    "If they were trying to do what's right, they would be spending the time to
    go through the committee process," he said. "I've always been a real
    advocate of slowing down the legislative process and giving everyone the
    opportunity to have their say."

    So far, Sali has voted against "pay-as-you-go" rules designed to prevent
    legislators from adding to the national debt. He said it will lead to "tax
    increases combined with cuts to programs like defense."

    He has also voted against legislation that would add another committee with
    oversight power over intelligence. Adding one actually counters the Sept. 11
    Commission's findings by adding another layer of bureaucracy, he said.

    Sali has signed up to co-sponsor amendments to balance the budget and make
    English the official U.S. language, he said.

    He and fellow Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson are co-sponsors of H.R. 26,
    which commends the Boise State University football team on its recent win
    against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, he said. He attended the game, calling
    it "an indescribable experience."

    The bill will "probably pass on a consent calendar," he said. "It will be a
    nice piece of congressional history."


    Seeya round town, Moscow.

    Tom Hansen
    Moscow, Idaho

    "Forty percent of the mass of every tree in the forest is crude oil.  Stop
    and think about that.  We call them fossil fuels because they used to be
    live stuff . . . now in the ground is turned into crude oil."

    - Bill Sali (September 21, 2006)


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