- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - A ballot measure that would raise Alaska’s minimum wage may sound good to voters but is “an infringement upon liberty,” an economics professor said in debating the merits of the proposal.

“All the sudden, we have government telling us we can’t choose the wage at which we’re willing to work,” University of Alaska Fairbanks professor Sherri Wall said, adding later: “Be leery of other people making decisions for you, because we’re all best positioned to make decisions for ourselves.”

Wall debated a sponsor of the initiative, former state labor commissioner Ed Flanagan, at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Tanana Valley on Tuesday.

Flanagan said opponents of the last minimum wage hike in Alaska “predicted doom and gloom, but it didn’t happen.” He said gains were made in employment.

The initiative, set to appear on the November ballot, would raise the minimum wage of $7.75 an hour by $2 an hour over two years and adjust it for inflation after that.

While relatively few people work right at the minimum wage, tens of thousands would be affected by an increase in the wage as employers need to become more competitive, Flanagan said.

Wall said she assumed the initiative will pass “because it sounds good.”

She said some people will be employed at the higher wage and some people will lose jobs.

Flanagan said an academic approach to pay doesn’t recognize the reality that low-income or entry-level workers often don’t have much say in what they’re paid, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (https://bit.ly/1wEEjHI ).

“How voluntary is it? Workers are price takers - as economists like to say - and the price sucks right now,” he said.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, https://www.newsminer.com

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