Another ballot proposition has made it to the signature-gathering phase. Yesterday, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwelll certified an initiative that would raise the minimum wage to $9.75 an hour.
Right now, the state minimum wage is set at $7.75. The initiative would bump that up by a dollar in 2015, and then by another dollar the year after. It also would build in future increases by tying the minimum wage to Anchorage’s consumer price index.
Ed Flanagan is one of three former labor commissioners spearheading the initiative. He describes the jump as “modest,” and says you would need to make closer to $12 an hour to support a family in this state.
“I know even $9.75 would be really impossible to live on in Alaska. But you’ve got to set the floor somewhere.”
This isn’t the first time that people have tried to raise the minimum wage through the initiative process. About a decade ago, a proposition that would have inflation-proofed the minimum wage was nearly on the ballot, but the legislature preempted that by passing a bill that did the same thing. But a year later they rolled back that policy. Flanagan says that’s one of the reasons they’re trying to bring this legislation to a vote.
“By going the initiative route, we don’t have to be concerned about the legislature passing something and then undoing it a year later. They can’t touch it for two years after the effective date. So, if we are successful in getting it passed in August of 2014, we would get both one-dollar raises and the first CPI adjustment before they could basically go in and undo any part of it.”
Flanagan says they’re also trying to avoid something called a “tip credit,” which would give businesses like restaurants an exemption from paying the minimum wage to staff who earn tips.
The sponsors have until January to collect over 30,000 signatures to get on next year’s primary ballot.