JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — In the lead-up to this year's elections, The Associated Press plans to publish an occasional list featuring the positions of the highest-profile Alaska U.S. Senate candidates on different issues.
All the campaigns contacted — Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and Republicans Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell — agreed to participate. The first subject is on increasing the minimum wage.
President Obama, in his State of the Union address last year, called for raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour. The White House more recently has expressed support for U.S. Senate legislation that would raise the minimum wage, in stages, to $10.10 an hour, as a way to strengthen the middle class. In Alaska, a citizen-led effort also is underway to raise the state's minimum wage.
The Associated Press asked these questions:
Should the federal minimum wage be raised? Please explain your reasons for why or why not.
If you support an increase, what level should it be brought to?
If you do not support an increase, what steps, if any, should the federal government be taking to help working-class families?
— Sen. Mark Begich, first-term incumbent: "An Alaskan working full time at minimum wage earns $310 a week, barely putting them above the poverty line and not keeping up with Alaska's high cost of housing, food, and energy. As I travel around our state talking with families and business owners, I repeatedly hear we must do more to help Alaska families get ahead, instead of constantly feeling like they are falling behind.
"That's why I co-sponsored legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. I've done this while rejecting any pay raises for myself and members of Congress. A fair wage puts more dollars into Alaska communities, supports local businesses and reduces government spending.
"Congress needs to pass a bipartisan bill like it did in 2007 to support working families, expand our economy and create new jobs. In August, Alaskans can weigh in on this debate by voting on the state ballot initiative."
— Joe Miller, Republican nominee in the 2010 U.S. Senate race won with a write-in campaign by Sen. Lisa Murkowski: "The minimum wage proposal does nothing to address the real causes of stagnating wages. While U.S. worker productivity has almost doubled since the 1970's, real wages have flat-lined. The average American household continues to grow poorer while families in other countries are seeing unprecedented increases in wealth.
"Our decades-long wage stagnation is a result of a number of factors, including both parties' unhealthy devotion to the demands of multinational corporations for cheap labor. Consequently, the U.S. has outsourced millions of jobs, turned a blind eye toward illegal alien workers, and subsidized foreign guest workers, all bringing down real wages of American labor.
"Finally, less than 5 percent of Americans earn the minimum wage, mostly youth, many just starting out, and almost two-thirds of them are part-time or not the primary wage earner for their household. Increasing the minimum wage is a superficial fix that does nothing to address the real causes of stagnating wages."
—Dan Sullivan, most recently served as Alaska's Natural Resources commissioner: "Burdensome federal regulations continue to shackle Alaska's potential to grow jobs and provide security to countless middle class families across the country — which is a testament to the anemic levels of economic growth under the Obama administration.
"Simply raising the minimum wage isn't an answer; it's an acknowledgement of President Obama's broken promises and failed economic policies. Strengthening job growth and wages in America begins with empowering small business owners, lowering taxes, cutting red tape and seizing upon an energy policy that promotes Alaskan resource development, not undermine it."
—Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell: "As Senator, I would not support raising the federal minimum wage. I'm running to bring decision-making home. Alaskans can make this decision better than Washington, D.C. I strongly believe that Alaska ought to set the minimum wage based on our need. As lieutenant governor, I oversee elections and in that capacity I am barred from making an official statement on the state's minimum wage due to a pending ballot initiative.
"One thing is clear: We need more jobs in Alaska. In Alaska that means access to our lands. We need access to ANWR (the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), access to timber and Tongass lands that can support new power generation held up by the roadless rule, and access in NPR-A (National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska). Under the Obama Administration, access has been blocked or taken away. Sen. Mark Begich promised access to ANWR and to advocate for Alaska's interests in DC but has failed. Alaska can create good, high paying jobs, but the federal government needs to get out of the way."