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Legislature punts minimum wage supports to 2017

Posted By Beth Farmer, Tuesday, March 01, 2016

With a three-tiered increase in Oregon’s minimum wage already a done deal, a bipartisan group of legislators turned their attention to crafting a bill that would provide relief, in the form of credits or subsidies, for certain businesses least able to afford the hike — including farms and nurseries.

But that effort appears to be on hold for now. Among the objections? That the most recent version of the ever-evolving effort would fall far short of providing relief for all who would need it.

The proposal would have provided a maximum of $15 million in tax credits for employers engaged in animal production, aquaculture, crop production, fishing, hunting, trapping and food manufacturing.

“The amount they were talking about would barely make a dent in the new wage burdens being imposed on agriculture, resource industries and small business,” OAN Executive Director Jeff Stone said. “We would have all been left fighting each other for scraps. That’s not the foundation upon which different industries can come together and support something that is good for the whole.”

The Oregon Association of Nurseries and several other groups representing agricultural sectors wrote a letter asking that the Legislature hold off until the 2017 session if that’s the best it can do right now.

“The reality is that more time is needed to fully run cost and benefit scenarios to ensure any wage relief actually benefits the agriculture industry as a whole,” they stated in a letter to Sen. Brian Clem (D-Salem), who led the bipartisan effort along with Rep. John Davis (R-Wilsonville). “We believe there may only be one shot at alleviating the burden S.B. 1532 imposes on agriculture. The solution must meet the needs of our member families without picking winners and losers among the industry.”

Clem told the Portland Tribune newspaper that he will pursue the wage supports issue in the next session. He hopes that with more time the Legislature can do it right.

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