In a thinly veiled attempt to stop a true minimum wage increase from ever happening, the Alaska House voted 21-19 to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour by July 1, 2014.
Although the bill seems like a good thing, the political maneuvering that transpired deserves a closer look.
A large majority of House Democrats – who are currently pushing to place a very similar minimum wage increase on the August ballot – voted against the bill, while a majority of Republican legislators voted for it.
Why? Under Alaska law, if the bill passes it will terminate the ballot initiative. A bill passed by the legislature can be changed or repealed in the next session, while a policy passed by voters on the ballot is much harder to change.
Supporters of a ballot initiative worry that the new bill will eventually be watered down while restricting legislators from making amendments for two years.
“It’s a strange vote, and it’s going to be difficult to justify to my voters,” Representative Scott Kawasaki (D) said, “I simply think this is a disingenuous piece of legislation.”
This isn’t the first time that an attempt has been made to block true progress on a minimum wage hike in Alaska.
“In 2002, the legislature played the same political game, passing a bill that indexed the minimum wage to inflation and booting a similar voter initiative off the fall ballot. The next year, the Republican-led legislature removed the cost-of-living adjustment,” the Washington Post reports.
The Senate is scheduled to vote in the coming weeks.