BOISE -- Following President Barack Obama's fifth State of the Union address, KTVB spoke with Idaho's Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and Congressman Raul Labrador for reaction. The big reactions came mostly from the president's take on how to bring more people into the middle class and raise minimum wage.
"The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by - let alone get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all," Obama said.
KTVB's political analyst Dr. David Adler said that would be the point most Idahoans would gravitate toward because Idaho ranks so low in terms of income levels.
"I think those words should actually resonate with the rank and file here in Idaho, given the fact that Idaho carries the dubious distinction of leading the nation in terms of the percentage of workers who are earning minimum wage. Any effort to boost minimum wage would be appealing to the working poor here in Idaho," Adler said.
Obama called on business leaders to give workers raises, which he said raises morale and eases financial stress. He also called on local government's not to wait for Congress to take up minimum wage, and he issued a statement that ruffled many feathers in the GOP:
"As a chief executive, I intend to lead by example. Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover. We should too. In the coming weeks, I will issue an Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour because if you cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn't have to live in poverty," Obama said.
Congressman Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) specifically addressed the executive order with KTVB after the speech, saying, "It's troubling that the president of the United States would come to Congress and say that he wants to work with us while at the same time say he doesn't care what we do because he's going to act on his own."
Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) also disagreed with the promise of executive order and the concept of raising minimum wage at a federal level. He says the better way is to reform fiscal policy through reducing national debt and reforming the tax code to stabalize the economy and boost jobs and wages.
"I disagree with the president on the minimum wage. And in terms of what he said in this speech, I disagree in two ways. First, he basically said, Congress, if you don't do things my way, I'm just going to sign executive orders and do it anyway. I think that's a very dangerous thing for the president to try to do. That's not the system of government we have, and instead the president should work with Congress on these issues," Crapo said. "Secondly, the fact is if we want to increase wages inthe United States and increase wages in Idaho, the way to do that is not for the government to issue an edict or the president to sign an order that says wages have to go up. That's not how an economy works. In fact what that will do is it will cost jobs. It will be an increased hit on our small businesses that are already struggling and we will have less employment as a result of that kind of an act."
After the speech, Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) also told KTVB the answer is not raising minimum wage saying the solution isn't more government influence; it's less.
"Of course business owners every day evaluate what the situation is in their business. He's good at delivering a speech like that, but you don't need to tell business owners how to run their business. They do know how to do it. When it comes to the minimum wage, it's really impossible for the federal government to set a minimum wage that applies to every corner of this country," Risch said. "The federal government is passing 70,000 pages of regulations every year. This is just business killing. We're Americans. We deserve better. We can do better, but the government has got to get out of the way and let us as Americans do what we do best and build this economy."
Where most agreed in the speech in terms of jobs was boosting the pay of women to equal that of men. Right now, Obama quoted that women make 77 cents per every dollar a man earns.
"It's time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a "Mad Men" episode. This year, let's all come together - Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street -to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds," Obama said.
Other areas where there is bipartisan support are for incentives to businesses to keep jobs in the United States and reforming immigration policy.