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Minimum wage hike set for Thursday committee vote

Posted By Beth Farmer, Wednesday, February 03, 2016

On Tuesday afternoon, legislators heard testimony on Senate Bill 1532, which is Gov. Kate Brown's scaled-back proposal to increase Oregon's minimum wage. The Senate Committee on Workforce and General Government is scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday, including the consideration of possible amendments.

Brown's proposal would phase in minimum wage hikes over the next six years, starting with a 50-cent hike this summer. The rates would top out at $14.50 in the Portland Urban Growth Boundary and $13.25 elsewhere in the state, then climb along with inflation after that. One possible amendment, by Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River), would exempt agricultural businesses from the increases.

OAN President Leigh Geschwill submitted written testimony against the proposal. "We need to address the hard issues in our state that will improve the economic reality for everyone — not just take the easy way out with a temporary fix that leaves the real work undone," she stated.

Geschwill indicated that current labor shortages — due to legislative inaction on immigration reform — and a lack of available housing are more pressing issues. “Simply raising minimum wage does not solve these problems, or even address them,” she said. “We have failed to address the real issues of adequate supply that accompany each level of worker we need.”

OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone also testified in writing against the bill. The OAN has been attempting to find an alternative to two ballot measures that are proposed for the November ballot. They would increase the minimum wage to either $13.50 or $15 statewide. The higher wage would take effect over the next two years.

"Despite our considerable commitment to find a solution, the current set of proposals before the Oregon Legislature cannot receive our support,” Stone stated in his written testimony. "Without significant alterations and protections to agriculture, Senate Bill 1532 will harm the nursery and greenhouse industry and its ability to compete in a national and global market, create untenable compression of wages, and will damage the state's economic growth."

OAN members are encouraged to make their voices heard. Contact your legislator and let them know how the issue impacts your business. Click here to find your legislator's phone number or email address.

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