A group looking to raise the minimum wage for employees across Alaska submitted more than 43,000 signatures to the state Division of Elections to get their initiative on the ballot and in front of voters.
Initiative co-sponsor Ed Flanagan said the goal of the initiative is a simple one.
“I hope to see people have a fair deal, or a fairer deal anyway,” Flanagan said. “Work ought to pay, it ought to be worth somebody’s while to go out and get a job and have some chance, some hope of being able to provide for their family.”
Flanagan says the initiative would help about 30,000 Alaskans if it makes it onto the ballot and voters pass it.
“The current minimum wage is totally inadequate … there’s 30,000 that’s going to be impacted, that’s why that’s being done, this is who it’s for,” Flanagan said.
The current minimum wage is $7.75 an hour in Alaska. The proposal would raise that to $8.75 on Jan. 1, 2015, and to $9.75 a year later. The wage would be adjusted annually for inflation annually after that. If the resulting minimum wage is less than a dollar over the federal minimum wage, it would then be set at $1 an hour over the federal minimum wage.
Denny DeWitt, the State Director for the National Federation of Independent Business, a group that supports small businesses, says he’s concerned about what would happen to job opportunities if business owners had to pay a higher minimum wage.
“The concern we have with mandated increases in the minimum wage is that forces additional expenditures and so you'd have to look at how it is you're going to live within your revenues,” DeWitt said.
DeWitt says the initiative would drastically reduce the number of jobs available for two groups of prospective employees.
“What we used to see is a lot of small businesses hiring high school folks and some college kids right out of college without a lot of experience, “ DeWitt said. “If it gets more expensive to hire those people you can less afford to hire, so you’re closing the entry points in the employment market.”
The Alaska Division of Elections counted 43,530 total in signatures out of the necessary 30,169 valid signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.
The Division of Elections won’t certify the petition until at least Tuesday of next week.