The governor this morning announced a proposal she'll inject into the minimum wage debate that looks like it'll have a starring role in the upcoming legislative session.
Brown's idea, suggested by many others, is to have two concurrent minimum wage hikes in Oregon—one within Portland's urban growth boundary, and one without. In much of the state, that'd mean a 10.25 minimum wage going into effect next year, and raising gradually to $13.50 by 2022. Portland's wage would be 15 percent higher, Brown says—beginning at roughly $11.79 next year and increasing to $15.52 by 2022.
After 2022, the minimum wage would be indexed to rise with inflation as it does now. The minimum wage is currently $9.25.
Brown's announcement comes as different groups push their own ideas for raising wages in Portland. The labor-backed Raise the Wage coalition is proposing a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $13.50. The group 15 Now Oregon is collecting signatures for a measure that would raise it to $15 statewide.
Brown's proposal is among the bolder suggestions we've heard for raising Oregon's wages. There are currently two other legislative proposals to raise the wage, which lawmakers plan to hold early hearings on this evening (plenty of people are already offering their thoughts). The first would split the state into three parts [pdf], each with its own minimum wage schedule. Another [pdf] would raise the statewide minimum wage to $13.50.
Update, 9:19 am: Members of both ballot measure campaigns to raise the minimum wage are raising similar questions about Brown's proposal. Justin Norton-Kertson, a spokesperson for 15 Now Oregon, says six years is "way too slow" to reach $15. (It's worth noting Brown's office hasn't offered what the year-over-year increases would be, so we're not sure when Portland's minimum would reach $15.)
"We also still stand by the idea that anything less than $15 in rural areas isn't really enough," Norton-Kertson says. "Studies back that up."
And Norton-Kertson points out Brown's press release makes no mention of lifting the statewide preemption that prevents cities from setting their own minimum wage. That's been seen as perhaps the most likely progress that could emerge from Salem this year. Norton-Kertson says $15 Now Oregon plans to continue gathering signatures for a ballot measure.
The Raise the Wage coalition—that group pushing a $13.50 wage—offered many of the same points, while noting there are still unanswered questions about Brown's proposal.
"A quick review shows that it has some positive elements—like a higher wage for some high-cost areas—but it does not include lifting pre-emption and it lengthens the timeframe significantly, which is a concern," Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain said in a statement.
For good background on the wage debate, check out this Mercury cover story from 2014.
Hit the jump for Brown's full press release.
(Salem, OR) — Governor Brown today announced her plan to increase the minimum wage statewide. The proposal was developed after conversations with stakeholders in both the public and private sectors. Their input was essential to finding Oregon's path forward to a higher minimum wage. The plan will be brought for debate during the 2016 legislative session next month.
"The costs of essentials such as food, child care, and rent are rising so fast that wages can't keep up,” said Governor Brown. “Many Oregonians working full-time can't make ends meet, and that's not right."
Recognizing that Oregon businesses need certainty and time to plan, the proposal calls for a two-tiered minimum wage that increases gradually over the next six years, starting in 2017. The plan establishes a higher minimum wage in the Portland metropolitan area, where the economy is growing faster and has traditionally been stronger, than in the rest of the state.
Outside of the Portland Urban Growth Boundary, the wage will be raised to $10.25 in 2017 and increase to $13.50 by 2022. Within Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary, the wage will be set at 15 percent above the statewide minimum wage, increasing to $15.52 by 2022.
After 2022, the minimum wage will return to the current rate of increase, in conjunction with the Consumer Price Index.