State Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) and State Rep. Caddy McKeown (D-Coos Bay) met separately with members of the OAN Government Relations Committee on Tuesday afternoon in Salem. Both representatives stated that they are opponents of the minimum wage increases that are currently proposed.
Bentz said a wage hike in the Eastern Oregon counties he represents would harm the economy. He said he realizes income inequality is a problem, but the wage hike would hit small busineses that can’t afford it. “I am absolutely astounded at the lack of understanding of my colleagues of basic economics,” he said.
McKeown said she has grave concerns about the wage hike and its effects, if passed, on her district. “I’m an odd voice in my caucus,” she said.
She said a three-tiered plan is least harmful, but she finds its drawing of lines by county to be arbitrary, and a better choice might be to draw distinctions by industry. Countervailing measures such as training wages, rebates or tax credits would help, and are “a topic of conversation,” she said.
Members told both McKeown and Bentz that the mandated wage hikes will harm growers workers, and will prompt growers to incorporate more automation in their operations.