After Pushing for Higher Minimum Wage in Oregon, Dem Lawmakers Admit They Made a Mistake

Leah Barkoukis
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Posted: Jun 10, 2016 8:00 AM
After Pushing for Higher Minimum Wage in Oregon, Dem Lawmakers Admit They Made a Mistake

It’s only been three months since Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a minimum wage bill into law and Democrats already seem to be regretting the measure they pushed so hard to get passed. 

But before the ink was even dry, Democrats, who control the state House, Senate and governor's office, announced they wanted to change the bill that was rammed through in a five-week legislative session despite fierce Republican opposition.

"They just wanted to pass something," said economist Eric Fruits, a Portland Republican. "They were really worried about the 15 Now people sending something to the ballot, and I think they got so snakebit they would have passed anything that was called a minimum wage increase."

The end result was that three different wages were set for different areas of Oregon depending on population size. In rural Oregon, for example, the minimum wage would rise to $12.50, whereas in the greater Portland area it would increase to $14.75—all by 2022.

But in pushing the legislation Democrats didn’t bother waiting for state economists to weigh in and give them a better idea of how the bill would affect the state.

Last week, state analysts concluded in a prepared forecast the high wage will "result in approximately 40,000 fewer jobs in 2025 than would have been the case absent the legislation."

Orchard owner John Zielinski said his family business will? take a big hit.

"When those pears and apples are sold on the market, they're not going to give us any more money because we're from Oregon and have a higher pay rate," said Zielinski of E.Z. Orchards.

Rural counties threatened to file a lawsuit against the state, calling the minimum wage a maximum mess and an unfunded mandate. Oregon's constitution allows local governments to opt out of state programs that raise costs significantly and are not funded by the legislature.

Hearing the outcry, Democratic leaders quickly admitted they may have messed up. They promised a fix-it bill next year allowing for a lower training wages for young workers and some new hires.

Of course, not all Democratic lawmakers and activists are on board with the proposed changes.

"I think having a sub-minimum wage, while it might sound good, could end up hurting the very people we're trying to help," said Democratic state Senator Diane Rosenbaum, reports FoxNews.com.

Republican leaders are in favor, however.