SALEM — House Speaker Tina Kotek said she will offer a new proposal this week to raise Oregon’s minimum wage in stages and also allow cities and counties to increase it beyond the statewide figure.
“The rationale for that is that we need to look at doing something with the statewide minimum-wage floor. We have to raise that floor so that people working full time can be out of poverty,” the Portland Democrat told reporters Monday.
“But there are some parts of the state that have a higher cost of living, such as the (Portland) metropolitan area. So if you want a statewide minimum-wage floor that is higher than what we have, it would be fair for communities to raise it above that.”
Kotek, however, declined to specify the top statewide rate or the length of the phase-in period in her proposal. She said only that she hoped to unveil it as a “starting point.”
Oregon’s minimum wage is $9.25 per hour, second only to Washington’s $9.47 as the highest among the states. It increases annually based on the Consumer Price Index under a ballot measure that voters approved in 2002.
Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles are phasing in $15 minimum wages.
But under a 2001 law, Oregon cities and counties cannot set their own minimum wages, although the Portland City Council and Multnomah County commissioners have set $15 minimum wages for their full-time government workers.
House and Senate committees conducted public hearings on minimum-wage bills on April 13, but there hasn’t been much action since. There are about a dozen pending bills, ranging from $10.75 to $15 per hour, and a few removing a pre-emption on local action.
The 2015 session must end by July 11, and leaders are pressing toward a target of July 4.
“Our view is that this is going to be on the table, but not particularly moving anywhere,” said D.J. Vogt, who spoke for the Oregon Business Association. “We would remain opposed to lifting the pre-emption on the minimum wage.”
Business groups fought to rein in conflicting requirements by Portland and Eugene, whose city councils in 2014 approved differing policies for businesses to provide paid sick leave for workers.
Senate Bill 454, which awaits votes in both chambers, sets a statewide standard for businesses subject to the paid-leave requirement and benefits provided to their workers – although the bill allows Portland to retain a lower number of employees.
Vogt also said the Senate remains a political barrier to a minimum-wage increase. Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, has said a jump to $15 is not feasible.
“It is going to be a proposal for conversation,” Kotek said. “But it could very well be a proposal that meets a lot of people’s needs and that people could support it. We’ll have to wait and see how it goes.”