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Oregon Minimum Wage Increase On Its Way To Governor's Desk

Joe Wolf
Flickr - http://tinyurl.com/z8o86qr

Oregon lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to a measure that will increase the state's minimum wage over the next six years. The vote in the Oregon House now sends the measure to the governor's desk.

The measure would create three separate minimum wages across the state: The Portland metro area would increase to $14.75 by 2022. Mid-size communities to $13.50. And rural parts of the state to $12.50.

Majority Democrats, including Tobias Read, called the bill a way to give low income Oregonians a much needed raise.

"And we do it in a way that recognizes that circumstances are different in different communities around the state, and allows businesses the chance to phase in that needed wage increase,” Read said.

Republicans said the bill would harm small businesses.

Debate on the bill lasted more than five hours. It was interrupted briefly by protesters who first chanted in the third floor gallery and later banged on the doors of the House chamber. The protesters want lawmakers to increase the minimum wage more quickly than the six years specified in the bill.

The noise level from the protest grew to the point that some lawmakers said they couldn't hear the discussion. House Speaker Tina Kotek placed the chamber in recess until order was re-established about 20 minutes later.

The measure passed the House 32-26. It now heads to the desk of Gov. Kate Brown, who says she plans to sign it.

The legislative action came as two groups continue to collect signatures for initiatives that would raise the minimum wage. The measures would be on the November ballot and would raise the minimum wage statewide to as much as $15 per hour in as little as three years.

Lawmakers and Gov. Brown say the slower timeline in the bill before the legislature will soften the impact to business. They hope that legislative action will convince the two groups to suspend their initiative campaigns.

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman covers the Oregon state capitol for JPR as part of the Northwest News Network, a group of 12 Northwest public radio organizations which collaborate on regional news coverage. Chris graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He began his career producing arts features for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been a reporter/announcer for NPR station WNIJ in DeKalb, Illinois. Chris has also reported from overseas, filing stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda.
Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.