The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966


Alaska Chamber Staff 

Alaska Chamber of Commerce takes firm position

Op-Ed

 


The primary is behind us, and with it goes the first ballot measure of the year. Alaskans everywhere can heave a collective and well-deserved sigh. But don’t throw out those No On One signs right away. We’ll be facing a triple dose of ballotmeasure-mania this fall in the general election. It might be wise to invest in a handful of sharpies for a judicious bit of recycling. Ballot measures are the product of a citizens’ initiative process. A relatively small percentage of voters* (10 percent of previous election turnout) may place issues of significant social and economic weight on the ballot.

It is then our job as Alaskans to become educated and knowledgeable about what it is that we are voting on. As Thomas Jefferson said,

“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” That is certainly an ideal we’d wish for every Alaskan, as well as ourselves. For while the intent and presentation of proposed measures may appear benign, the actual social and business consequences are not always defined, discussed and understood. This November we cast our ballots on three measures, each threatening harmful and lasting consequences to Alaska workers and employers.

Ballot Measure 2: Taking Marijuana to the Masses While this may appear to be a reprise of the legalization initiative that Alaskans voted down by a whopping 20 percentage points back in 2000, it’s not. This initiative is part of a nationwide campaign to push commercial, industrialized cannabis products into markets across the U.S.

It may seem counterintuitive for a Chamber of Commerce to oppose the commercialization of a suite of products. However, Colorado and Washington are already wrestling with their own choices on this issue. The consequences for businesses are tangible and real. They include increased costs and exposure to liability. Drug testing methods are inadequate to the task of gauging an employee’s level of impairment. The initiative leaves no opportunity for Alaskan villages and dry communities to opt out of the law. It will, in fact, be illegal for them to do so.

A red state like Alaska is an appealing target for the backers of this national campaign. Yet there is no reason for Alaska to rush cannabis

edibles, candies and concentrates into our economy. There is no immediacy to the issue. Better that we wait and observe the resolution to the business and legal struggles that Colorado and Washington are wrestling with before we sign up for some of our own.

Ballot Measure 3: Raising Alaska’s Minimum Wage Alaska’s workers are engaged in commerce. Each of us - without fail - shares a product in common. That product is our labor. Each of us will forever be uniquely positioned to determine the value of our skills, time and talents. Proponents of a minimum wage (and specifically of increases to that minimum) believe that a minimum wage protects those of us who make the least. It feels good to think that we’re putting more money into the pockets of those who need it most. Thankfully, measures designed to increase minimum wage frequently fail when voters learn that the opposite is always the case.

There are winners and losers when it comes to increasing the minimum wage. The winners under a higher minimum wage are those individuals lucky enough to keep their jobs. Also, labor contracts frequently reference the current minimum wage as a base. If you purposely raise the arbitrary and artificial floor, then you increase labor costs across the board… and that means there are losers.

The losers under a higher minimum wage are the same unskilled workers who most need a job and the basic skills that come with such a job. Some businesses may be able to raise the cost of their service or products, but others, many competing globally simply don’t have that option. Arbitrarily setting a minimum wage guarantees employers will demand a higher minimum skill set for beginning workers, seek efficiencies through automation, or be forced to close their doors.

Ballot Measure 4: Different Regs for Different Region Ballot Measure 4 is the latest in the ongoing concerted assault on the beleaguered Pebble prospect. Opinions on the viability of that project aside, this measure attempts to cripple resource management by muddling the regulatory process. It demands a blurring of lines between branches of state government. Specifically, it requires that the legislature take action after Alaska’s designated administrative departments enforce the regulations established by the legislature.

Sound confusing? It’s intended to. Alaska’s business community is often at odds with regulatory and permitting agencies. Those interactions exist by design. They are put in place to assure that Alaska’s resources are developed and that the work is completed in the most responsible manner possible. Ballot Measure 4 preys on that process. It is engineered inefficiency, establishing a preceden with reaching impact far beyond Bristol Bay and our mineral resources. This November we will cast our ballots for these three ballot measures. In theory, it should be easy to remember the best course of action on each – Just Vote No.

*The Initiative Petition Process is defined online at: http://www.elections.alaska.gov.

 

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