Minimum Wage Increase Proposed by Oregon Governor Kate Brown

A minimum wage hike has been proposed by Oregon governor Kate Brown as part of a two-tiered, six-year plan for the state that would start in 2017.

Governor Brown’s plan — which was put forth on Thursday, January 14 — would see the city of Portland become set with a minimum wage of $15.52 per hour by the year 2022, while “other areas” would see this wage ultimately increase to $13.50, CNN Money reported.

“The costs of essentials such as food, child care, and rent are rising so fast that wages can’t keep up,” said Brown in a statement. “Many Oregonians working full-time can’t make ends meet, and that’s not right.”

Statewide, Oregon’s minimum wage workers currently only pull in $9.25.

“I think the proposal that we’ve laid out today helps our Oregon small businesses meet their financial needs,” said Governor Brown to KVAL in an interview. Brown also noted that the tiered system of having a separate minimum wage in Portland, specifically, should also help workers and small businesses “ease into the plan.”

Brown’s office also noted that the minimum wage plan comes as a result of “conversations with stakeholders in both the public and private sectors.”

Governor Brown’s measure, should it be approved by state legislators, would add Oregon to a list of 13 states that have, to date, either expanded or are set to expand state-wide minimum wage requirements in 2016.

As noted by the National Employment Law Project (N.E.L.P.), these governors are “following the examples set by San Francisco and Seattle… [that] have approved a hike to $15.”

According to N.E.L.P., raising the minimum wage is instrumental to help grow the U.S. economy.

“Stagnant income is the crisis of our time. Thanks to the productivity of America’s workers, the US economy is nearly twice as large per capita as it was in 1980—but most families have nothing to show for it. Corporate profits as a share of our national income are at an all-time high, while wages are at a 65-year low. Raising the minimum wage is one of the best tools we have to lift incomes and grow our consumer-driven economy.”

In many locations, N.E.L.P. noted, the minimum wage increases are being done over time to alleviate business concerns.

While such a gradual plan seems to be the preferred course of action for Governor Brown and others, Oregon Public Broadcasting (O.P.B.) noted that there are as many as five potential courses of action that could be taken specifically to benefit the state.

Minimum wage potential increase paths in Oregon are highlighted in this graphic by Oregon Public Broadcasting. (Image by OPB)

According to O.P.B., this graphic illustrates minimum wage growth both currently and under Brown’s and two other proposed plans. Inflationary increases are based on an annual cost-of-living increase of 2.2 percent, which is the average for Oregon since 2004 when it began adjusting minimum wage for inflation.

Governor Brown’s minimum wage legislation, of course, is not the only plan-of-action that has been proposed for the state in recent months. As illustrated in Oregon Public Broadcasting’s graphic, two other groups have also stepped forward with ideas, as well.

  • Oregonians for 15, which aims to raise minimum wage to $15 statewide, albeit in three annual steps.
  • Raise The Wage Oregon, which aims to raise the minimum wage to $13.50 over the same three-year period, with the additional option for local government officials to approve their own increases.

It is Governor Brown’s minimum wage increase plan, however, that has already gained the support of two prominent Oregon Democratic statesmen: House of Representatives Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney.

“We have to meet as many needs as possible, and over the next six years low-wage workers would get an increase under this proposal and businesses would have predictability,” said Kotek, per KVAL.

Courtney, meanwhile, called Governor Brown’s minimum wage increase plan “a good-faith proposal to try and increase the minimum wage while also recognizing the economic engine of Portland.”

The Oregon governor’s potential new legislation, however, has not been met only with fanfare.

“It has some positive elements like a higher wage for some high-cost areas but it does not include lifting [the statewide] preemption and it lengthens the timeframe significantly,” noted the aforementioned Raise The Wage Oregon group in a prepared statement. In particular, Raise The Wage would prefer to remove specific legislation in place that prohibits local districts from setting minimum wage tiers. Governor Brown’s proposal, it has been noted, would keep these restrictions in place.

At the business level, meanwhile, big and small business owners alike have stepped forward to question some of the new potential law’s intricacies.

“I’m all for minimum wage increases, just not such a dramatic increase,” Gary Christopherson, the owner of Little Y Market in Eugene, Oregon, told KVAL, while Papa’s Pizza president Mik Nesbitt noted that layoffs, reduced hours, and price increases would surely follow.

Minimum wage workers such as those in the fast food industry in Oregon will undoubtedly be affected by Governor Brown's plan. (Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Governor Brown’s minimum wage plan is set to be debated by state legislature next month.

[Image by Getty Images]