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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Governor Backs Phased-In Minimum Wage Hike

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
Supporters of a higher minimum wage rallied outside the Oregon Capitol Thursday.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has announced her support for a major hike in the state's minimum wage. Brown said she hopes her new proposal will encourage the backers of two initiative campaigns to lay down their signature-gathering pens.

Brown's proposal would raise the hourly minimum wage to $15.52 in the Portland metro area and $13.50 in the rest of the state. The increase would be phased in over the next six years.

That's not fast enough for some minimum wage activists. Justin Norton-Kertson is with Oregonians for 15. He said his group will continue gathering signatures for an initiative that would hike the hourly minimum wage to $15 statewide by 2019.

"The reality is is that $15 already isn't enough in the Portland area, and so a six-year phase-in just doesn't really cut it,” Norton-Kertson said.

Brown said that time frame was chosen with input from the state's business community.

"The goal was to make sure that for our businesses throughout the state of Oregon, that there was a glide path -- an ample opportunity for preparation and planning as we increase the minimum wage,” the governor said.

Democratic leaders in the Oregon Legislature made supportive statements about the governor's plan. The state's leading business groups gave it mixed reviews.

In Olympia, Governor Jay Inslee this week threw his support behind an initiative that would boost the state's minimum wage to $13.50 per hour by 2020.

Until this year, Washington had the nation's highest minimum wage and Oregon the second highest. But with a new round of statewide minimum wage increases kicking in a half-dozen other state on January 1, Oregon and Washington are no longer in the top five nationally. Idaho's minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour.