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Report: Idaho Workers Missing out on $11,000 a Year

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January 16, 2012

BOISE, Idaho - Idaho's economy is still far from being healthy, and chronic low wages are part of the problem. Research on the topic is being discussed today at the "Kitchen Table Economics" forum in Boise.

Retired University of Idaho economics professor Stephen Cooke has found that Idahoans earn about $11,000 less per year than the national average, and he says the state should focus on ways to change that, in order to grow the economy.

"What I'm suggesting for a remedy is that, in order to become a high-skilled economy, we need to make investments in research and development, education and infrastructure."

Cooke says higher wages mean more disposable income and more tax revenue, and yet Idaho has been focused on policies that attract low-wage, low-skill jobs, instead of recruiting high-paying jobs.

He says early legislative discussion about cutting taxes to improve the state's economy ignores the underlying problem of the low-skill, low-wage issue, which he calls a trap Idaho has fallen into.

"There's no indication that cutting taxes improves economic development, and in fact just the opposite is true."

He says Idaho's declining job sectors include professional, scientific and technical services, as well as management of companies and enterprises, and mining.

"Kitchen Table Economics" will be held from 6-8 p.m. today in the State Capitol Auditorium. Dr. Cooke will speak at the event.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID