Oregon Small Businesses Brace for Another Minimum Wage Battle

Date: February 02, 2016 Last Edit: February 03, 2016

Gov. Kate Brown seeks to raise the state's minimum wage well above current levels.

Oregon Small Businesses Brace for Another Minimum Wage Battle

Things aren’t looking great for Oregon’s small business owners.

Gov. Kate Brown is trying to enact a wage increase that would bring Portland’s minimum wage to $14.50 an hour and the rest of the state’s minimum wage to $13.25 an hour by 2022. That’s well above the state’s current minimum wage of $9.25.

Anthony Smith, NFIB/Oregon state director, said small businesses throughout the state showed up for a public hearing at the Capitol on Jan. 14 to testify against several proposals to raise the state minimum wage.

“It was undeniably clear that no matter what the legislature decides to do during the short session, the groups supporting a $15-per-hour minimum wage by 2019 will be moving forward with their ballot measure campaign in the months ahead, and Oregon voters will have to make the final decision in November,” Smith said.

NFIB/Oregon Poll is Loud and Clear

NFIB/Oregon conducted a poll of its members on the minimum wage issue, drawing overwhelming opposition (94 percent) to any increase in the state’s minimum wage. What’s more, 89 percent of respondents were against giving cities and counties the power to adopt their own local wages beyond the state’s minimum wage.

Under Brown’s proposal, the minimum wage would go up incrementally over the next six years. Beginning in July 2016, the statewide minimum wage would increase to $9.75 an hour and continue to go up until it hits $13.25 in 2022. Beyond that, annual increases would be based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is already how Oregon calculates minimum wage increases.

Smith said the proposal puts small businesses in a situation in which they have to “decide whether to reduce hours for workers, make layoffs, close up shop, or increase their prices on things like food, childcare and other essentials that low-income and fixed-income Oregonians cannot afford.”

Headaches to Come

Brown’s proposal includes a second tier that applies only to the Portland metro area. For this area, the new rate would start at $9.75 an hour in July 2016 and reach $14.50 in 2022, Smith said.

Jack Mozloom, NFIB media communications director, told the Wall Street Journal that such a proposal places significant burdens on a business with multiple locations in the state or one with employees working from different locations.“

We believe raising the minimum wage beyond the level that customers want to pay business is unwise, so this is going to be a headache-plus,” Mozloom said.


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