By Shelby Sebens
PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - A senior Oregon lawmaker is proposing that the Democratic-led state raise its minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2018 in a move that would give it the highest statewide minimum pay level in the country, officials said on Tuesday.
House of Representatives Speaker Tina Kotek plans to present her proposal during a House Rules Committee meeting on Wednesday, in a move that if successful would bring the wage floor to $11 an hour in January before lifting it higher over time.
But the measure faces bleak prospects in the state Senate, whose leader opposes action on the issue this session.
“A lift in the minimum wage will make a real difference for thousands of working families in every community across our state,” Kotek said in a statement. “On a day-to-day basis, that increase may be the difference between buying groceries and skipping dinner, between paying the rent and risking having the power shut off.”
With the federal minimum wage at $7.25 an hour since 2009, labor and religious groups have increasingly pressed state and local governments in liberal-leaning areas to enact their own minimum wage hikes as their hopes dim for an increase from the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress.
Oregon already has the second highest minimum wage in the country at $9.27 an hour, below the $9.47 set in neighboring Washington state, although higher wages are due to take effect in a number of states next year.
Oregon Republicans oppose raising the minimum wage. While both chambers of the state legislature have a Democratic majority, Senate President Peter Courtney has said he does not support an increase in the minimum wage this session.
A spokesman for Courtney, a Democrat, said the Senate president's position had not changed.
Kotek’s proposal would increase the minimum wage to $11 an hour, effective Jan. 1, 2016, to $12 in 2017 and $13 in 2018. After 2018, the state would maintain the current indexing to protect against inflation.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney)