State Senate Passes Bill to
Raise Minimum Wage
April 10, 2009
The State Senate passed Senate Bill 1 Wednesday, which would
increase Alaska's minimum wage for the first time in more than
"Alaska's workers have gone far too long without a reasonable
minimum wage," said Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage),
a prime sponsor of SB 1. "Especially in these hard economic
times, we need to ensure that our lowest-paid citizens can earn
a decent living."
Under the bill, Alaska's minimum wage would increase from $7.15
an hour to 50 cents above the federal minimum wage on January
1, 2010. Alaska's minimum wage was last raised in January 2003.
Had it kept pace with inflation, it would be about $8.46 today.
"Alaska's cost of living is one of the highest in the nation,"
said Senator Joe Thomas (D-Fairbanks) another prime sponsor of
the bill. "Despite this, 19 states have a higher minimum
wage than Alaska, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii,
Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and
Washington. In July of this year, when the federal minimum wage
increases to $7.25 an hour, ours will be lower than 39 other
states, unless this bill is signed into law."
More than 8,000 Alaskans earn less than $7.75/hour and would
benefit from this legislation.
Senator Wielechowski noted that workers who earn the current
Alaska minimum wage make roughly $14,872 a year, little more
than the federal poverty level for Alaska, which is $13,530.
Nationally, 25% of those workers are parents, and many are the
sole wage earners in their households.
Economic studies have found
that modest increases in the minimum wage do not have negative
employment impacts, such as job losses, perhaps because higher
wages lead to greater productivity, lower recruiting and training
costs, decreased absenteeism, and increased worker morale.
SB 1 now goes to the House
of Representatives for its consideration.
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