SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Minimum Wage Increase Passes Senate with Tax Relief for Small Businesses


February 01, 2007
Thursday PM

(SitNews) ­ The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, a bill that will raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour in three increments over a two-year period passed the Senate today 94-3. Also included in the bill was a series of tax relief considerations for small businesses to help them continue to grow and create jobs. Senate Democrats yielded to Republican demands to include tax breaks for small businesses to help cover the cost of increasing the minimum wage.

The House of Representatives voted on January 10th to increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 per hour in three $.70 increments over a two year span and sent the bill on to the Senate for their approval. From there, it will go to President Bush for signing which would enact it into federal law.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates this minimum wage increase will impose $4 billion in new costs on the private sector in 2009 and $5.7 billion in 2010, with costs increasing at roughly $5 billion per year thereafter. Small businesses will incur the bulk of these costs and could have been forced to lay off workers if offsets were not provided.

Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) voted for The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007. "An increase in the minimum wage is overdue in this country. However, we couldn't just raise the minimum wage - we had to make sure our legislation would not harm small businesses, which play such a vital role in the economy of our State and the nation," said Senator Stevens. "The bill we passed today will protect these businesses and increase the wages paid to millions of hard-working Americans. It's a win-win for them and our State's small businesses."

Senator Stevens joined Senator John Sununu (R-N.H.) in championing a key amendment that was included in the legislation passed today. This provision, which was approved unanimously, would create a new three-year grant program to prevent the closure and defunding of Women's Business Centers (WBCs). The lack of federal matching dollars in the WBC program threatens the continued operation of many centers. Without a fix, certain WBCs, including those in Alaska, will lose eligibility for sustainability program funding in Fiscal Year 2008.

The program would provide graduating centers between $90,000 and $150,000 in matching federal funds per fiscal year for operating expenses and leverage to raise private-sector dollars; give existing WBCs priority application status over first-time applicants; and finance the new three-year grants through the WBC program's current funding level. The amendment accomplishes this at no additional cost to the American taxpayer.

"These centers provide Alaskan women with critical training and counseling in finance, management, marketing, and other important skill areas," said Senator Stevens. "In particular, the specialized programs that target rural home-based entrepreneurs benefit many women in Alaska. Given the program's track record of meeting the needs of local small businesses started or owned by women, we must ensure this program continues to be funded."

As of January 01, 2003, the minimum wage for Alaska is currently $7.15 per hour, except for a person employed as a school bus driver, who receives at least two times the Alaska minimum wage.


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska