SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Minimum Wage Debate Starts In Juneau
Democrats Call For Pay Equity


January 23, 2007

Today six Alaska House Democrats launched their effort to increase Alaska's minimum wage, which has stagnated since 2002. Alaska once had the nation's highest minimum wage, reflecting the state's high cost of living.

"Fuel costs have gone up. Food and medical costs have gone up. The level of pay for people who work and still struggle to make ends meet should go up too," said Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage).

HB 42 reverses a series of cuts made to the Alaska minimum wage in 2003 by then-Gov. Frank Murkowski. In 2002, after the public failed to persuade the Legislature to increase the minimum wage, 30,000 voters signed an initiative petition to increase minimum wage to $7.15 per hour. The initiative also added an annual inflation-proofing provision to offset the rising cost of living. The Legislature passed legislation based upon the initiative language. However, in 2003 Murkowski and a majority in the Legislature rolled back two of the initiative's provisions. Most importantly, the inflation proofing was deleted.

As a result, Alaska's minimum wage has stagnated at $7.15/hour. According to a recent report from the Legislature's research department, Alaska's minimum wage would now be $8 per hour if that provision had not been deleted. Research shows that increasing the minimum wage will pressure wages for higher income workers upwards as well (Economic Policy Institute paper,).

HB 42 raises the minimum wage to $8 per hour, and reinstates the annual inflation-proofing provision. In addition, it restores a provision that was also deleted in 2003 ­ to require Alaska's minimum wage to be at least $1 per hour greater than the federal minimum wage, currently being debated in Congress.

"It's hard to raise a family on $7.15 per", said Rep. Bob Buch (D-Anchorage). "Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do."

Rep. Andrea Doll (D-Juneau) emphasized the importance of this legislation outside of Anchorage. "We can't effectively address housing and cost of living issues in Juneau or elsewhere in Alaska without addressing the minimum wage," she said.

Research shows that:

  • Nationwide, over 10 million workers live on the minimum wage.
  • In Alaska, the Department of Labor reports that 15 percent of wage earners receive less than $10 per hour, and 5 percent are paid less than $8 per hour.
  • Women make up the majority of minimum wage earners (Economic Policy Institute).

The sponsors of this legislation are Reps. Gara, Buch, Crawford, Gardner, Holmes, Doogan, and Gruenberg (D-Anchorage), Reps. Kerttula and Doll (D-Juneau), and Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks).

On the Web:

The Legislature's research department has prepared reports on:

pdfThe history of Alaska's minimum wage

pdfStatistics showing the number of Alaskans who earn less than $8 and $10 per hour

Link to Economic Policy Institute paper:



Source of News:

Office of Representative Les Gara


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska