I believe the state of Alaska has contributed more to the lack of affordable housing in Juneau than any other factor. The state of Alaska is the largest employer in Juneau and the state as a whole. We do have a higher cost of living in Alaska than most places in the Lower 48, but there was a time when both private and state employee wages were substantially higher than those of the Lower 48. Those days are long gone.
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There have been several studies that show that in the last 15 years state employees have lost in the range of 25 to 30 percent of their purchasing power. The state of Alaska recognized that pay had not kept up with inflation for its commissioners and directors, and rectified that last year with approximately a 25 percent pay raise, but they have yet to recognize the need for the average state employee.
Can you imagine the effect to our economy if the state were to give the same consideration to their employees as they gave to their appointees? Those dollars would be spent in Alaska. It would be a tremendous, positive boost to our economy. It would apply pressure on wages in all sectors. If your wages increase, then you could finally qualify for that home loan. We just want to live the American dream.
I have only been in Juneau for five years and have witnessed another effect of lower pay to state employees. It is the amazing the amount of state employee retirement parties where the retiree is leaving town because he or she cannot afford to stay here. Can you imagine the impact if our retirees kept their retirement dollars in the state?
It appears that our legislators and governors have been saving the glass, but letting the pitcher fall to the Lower 48.