Minimum Wage Debate Starts In
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:
The history of Alaska's
the number of Alaskans who earn less than $8 and $10 per hour
Link to Economic Policy Institute paper: http://www.epinet.org/content.cfm/issueguides_minwage_minwagefaq
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