Oregon raises minimum wage by 50 cents

Kathleen Lantto |

Cherry Blossoms Salem Oregon 2

Edmund Garman / Flickr

From 12 News KPNX:

By: Gordon Friedman

Oregon minimum-wage workers will see a 50-cent increase in their hourly pay starting July 1.

At a signing ceremony for the bill Wednesday, Gov. Kate Brown said increasing the state's $9.25 minimum wage was her top priority for the 2016 legislative session.

Working Oregonians who have trouble affording basic necessities can get "a little closer to the American dream,” she said. Before taxes, it would grant a full-time minimum-wage worker an immediate $20 raise each week, but graduated increases could give the state the highest minimum wage in the nation by 2022.

The compromise developed among legislators and business and labor lobbyists is novel because it creates three minimum wage tiers for the state:

  • Rural areas will see a wage increase from the current $9.25 to $12.50 by 2022.
  • Much of the state will use a "base wage," which will increase to $13.50 by 2022.
  • The Portland area is the third tier, which will increase to $14.75 by 2022.

After 2022, the base wage will be adjusted for inflation, with the Portland wage tied $1.25 above and the rural wage $1 below the base wage.

Shortly after the bill signing, President Barack Obama released a statement commending Brown and the Legislature while criticizing Congress for inaction on raising the federal minimum wage, which has been $7.25 an hour since July 2009.

About 100,000 workers earn minimum wage in Oregon, which supporters of the bill said can make it difficult to afford housing, food, child care and other goods and services. Critics of the law say increased payroll costs will result in layoffs, ultimately hurting the state's economy.

Passing the minimum wage increase was no small feat. Lobbyists for business and labor groups were firmly camped on opposite sides of the wage debate.

The labor groups filed ballot measures to raise the minimum wage. That effectively forced the Legislature to come up with its own solution before a costly and potentially politically damaging ballot-measure fight ensued.

At the bill signing, state Sen. Michael Dembrow, a Portland Democrat and the bill's sponsor, said the minimum wage law builds upon the paid sick leave law the Oregon Legislature passed in 2015. He called the new law "monumental."

"This is why we were elected," he said.

Read the full article from 12 News KPNX.