Why I Vote For a Higher Minimum Wage
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Earlier today I voted to support a minimum wage compromise designed to help low-income workers, minimize costs for small business, and protect retirees from cost increases.
Increasing the minimum wage is a complicated question. Low-wage workers are struggling to pay living expenses and escape public subsidies for rent, food, or child care. Small business owners are facing higher labor costs that may encourage them to reduce hours, cut jobs, or increase prices. And retirees fear that the cost of their everyday necessities will rise while their incomes stay the same.
The compromise plan will phase in small wage increases over the next six years. In our district, the rate will increase by fifty cents in July 2016 and step up gradually before reaching $13.25 in 2022. Wages in Portland will be somewhat higher. The agricultural regions of Eastern Oregon will be slightly lower.
With the passage of this new legislation, I expect that ballot measures proposing wages as high as $15 with much shorter implementation schedules will now be withdrawn. I believe that without legislative action, at least one of those ballot measures would have passed. All the polling I’ve seen, and recent results in other states, strongly suggest that this would have been the case.
Some argue that we should have let the measures proceed to the ballot. I think that would be a huge risk. An immediate and sizable cost increase would hurt our fragile coastal and rural economies, undermine small employers, and jeopardize jobs.
There are many in our district who feel strongly that wages need to increase more dramatically. And there are many who feel we should let market forces dictate wages, not state law. I believe my job as a legislator is to help craft outcomes that help as many people as possible while minimizing harm or risk where I can.
The underlying priority for our district is not simply adjusting wages, but creating better jobs and better opportunities for everyone to advance. We do that by improving education, reinforcing our highways, bridges, and ports, and empowering small businesses and entrepreneurs.
It is important to me that you understand my reasoning on this important issue. I do not cast my votes lightly, and I believe that I have made the best decision possible for our district and the State of Oregon.
Rep. David Romberg