Oregon minimum wage could be raised to $10.25 in 2017

Salem, Ore. — Oregon Governor Kate Brown announces plans to raise the state’s minimum wage as soon as 2017. Oregon already has the second highest minimum wage in the country, but the governor says prices for essentials like food and child care continue to rise and many Oregonians can’t make ends meet. It’s welcome news for proponents who say an increase is long overdue, but small businesses in the Rogue Valley say the change could be crippling.

“It’s so simplistic to say just give them more money,” Denise Obrien of Talent Café says, “and then everything goes up and then you need to give them more. This is what we call inflation.”

Denise Obrien pays a majority of her staff at Talent Cafe, more than the state minimum wage of $9.25 an hour.

“I adopt my employees and if they work hard they get paid really well.”

Governor Kate Brown announced plans Thursday to raise the minimum wage to $10.25 next year, and $13.50 by 2022. Obrien calls the move nuts.

“Those same people who are going to get a raise are going to be paying that subsequent amount higher for everything that they’re buying which makes them not have a raise.”

Democrats say that’s not the case.

“If you raise this thing slowly and steadily it’s going to help those people more than its going to hurt them,” State Senator Alan Bates (D) says, “we’ve seen other parts of the country do this, maybe not as dramatically as we have, but its coming.”

Republicans however, say higher prices are inevitable.

“Say I made $18 an hour and I’ve been there for 10 years and all of a sudden you bring someone in at $15 an hour because that’s what they’re shooting for eventually, well wouldn’t I deserve a raise?” State Representative Sal Esquivel says, “so everything is going to ratchet up.”

Obrien says that’s a huge concern for all small businesses, who could struggle to stay afloat.

“The rhetoric is that we are the backbone of this country, and yet you’re trying to break your backbone,” Obrien says, “they need to target the big boys, not the little ones.”

The only exception to the plan is that within Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary, the wage will be set at 15% above the statewide minimum wage, increasing to $15.52 by 2022.

The legislature will take up the issue during next month’s legislative session. If they don’t act, there are two ballot measures currently gathering signatures which aim to raise the wage to as much as $15 an hour.



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