Raising the Minimum Wage – SB1532

Raising the Minimum Wage – SB 1532

For over 30 years, wages for most workers have stagnated even while productivity and CEO salaries have soared, crippling our middle-class economy. Too many parents are working full time—sometimes at multiple part-time jobs—and are still unable to make ends meet. Too many workers are paid so little that they have to depend on public assistance just to get by, costing taxpayers nearly $2 billion every year—even while many employers make record profits.

Tax reform to help address income inequality has not happened and Oregon does not have the revenue to subsidize these basic needs working Oregonians deserve. For the middle-class American dream, this lopsided economy has become an existential crisis. I’m proud to say that this year, the Oregon Legislature voted to begin tackling this problem head on by raising Oregon’s minimum wage.

While this historic minimum wage bill passed during the 2016 legislative session, the work to shape it began more than a year ago when several bills were introduced for consideration in January 2015. And despite uninformed claims and false assumptions about the process leading up to this year’s vote, the effort to craft this proposal was thorough, measured, and took into account feedback from the public, business organizations, labor unions, advocacy groups, political parties, legislators, and economists. In fact, over the course of the past year, we held 10 public hearings on raising the minimum wage, adding up to about 30 hours of public testimony from all sides on the issue.

The concepts that emerged from the work-group and the public hearings informed Governor Brown’s initial proposal in January of this year. After more input from all sides, Senate Bill 1532 came forward with provisions addressing feedback from business groups and rural legislators in two key ways.

First, we phased in the wage increases gradually over seven years—between this July and July regional chart2022—in order to provide certainty and stability for employers and give them time to plan for the increases. This ramp up is much slower than many of the other concepts that were floated, namely the $13.50 and $15 ballot measures that were moving forward.

Second, rather than having one minimum wage rate for the entire state, Senate Bill 1532 establishes a regional system with three wage levels to reflect different local economies and costs of living. This is an innovative approach to raising the minimum wage that could be emulated across the country.

Senate Bill 1532 is a three-region minimum wage measure that phases in increases in the state minimum wage over six years. Arriving at $14.75 in the Portland metropolitan area, $12.50 in rural counties and $13.50 in the Willamette Valley Northwest Oregon, as well as Jackson, Josephine, Deschutes, Wasco and Hood River counties.