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Center for Public Policy: Raising Minimum Wage Makes Working Families "More Self-Sufficient"

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has proposed raising the minimum wage in order keep up with the costs of essentials like rent and food. (The All-Nite Images/flickr)
Oregon Governor Kate Brown has proposed raising the minimum wage in order keep up with the costs of essentials like rent and food. (The All-Nite Images/flickr)
February 1, 2016

SALEM, Ore. – Minimum wage is a top priority for Oregon lawmakers as the legislative session begins today.

Hearings are scheduled this week to discuss Gov. Kate Brown's latest proposal to increase the minimum wage over the next six years to $14.50 in the Portland area and $13.25 in the rest of the state. The governor previously proposed minimum wages of $15.52 for Portland and $13.50 for the rest of the state by 2022.

Juan Carlos Ordóñez, communications director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy, says the cost of living is outpacing wages in the state, and that's hitting working families hardest.

If wages are raised, according to Ordóñez, low-income families could become more self-sufficient, relying less on social safety net programs.

"It also certainly is good for families, just in the overall sense of well-being, to know that they are able to take care of themselves and their loved ones," he states.

Ordóñez says while raising the minimum wage might cost businesses upfront, people will ultimately have more money in their pockets to spend, bringing benefits across the economy.

Alfredo Higueras works at a Portland restaurant earning minimum wage. He says food and rent for him alone cost more than his wages.

"I would not consider having a family living at a minimum wage,” he says. “It just doesn't seem doable."

Ordóñez says working families also carry the costly burden of child care, which is often more expensive than sending a child to college.

A common criticism of raising wages is that it hurts small businesses and reduces jobs.

However, Ordóñez says Oregon's own history tells a different story. In particular, he notes the Oregon legislature increased the minimum wage by 42 percent in 1989.

"Oregon has raised the minimum wage a number of times and there's no discernible impact on small businesses,” he points out. “In fact, they've experienced long term growth over the years."


Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR