Oregon minimum wage to stay at $9.25 in 2016 after consumer index shows little inflation

Economic Indicators Associated Press

Oregon's minimum wage will stay the same in 2016.

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The wage is re-calculated each year because of a state law passed by voters in 2002 that ties it to inflation.

The wage will remain stuck at $9.25 this January because it is pegged to the Consumer Price Index, which showed little inflation, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian said Wednesday.

Roughly 100,000 Oregon workers make the minimum wage, which translates to $19,240 a year for those who put in 40 hours a week. In January, the wage went from $9.10 an hour to $9.25.

Oregon's minimum wage is the second-highest in the nation — $2 above the federal minimum of $7.25. But the announcement that it won't be going higher until at least 2017 will likely increase pressure from liberal groups for the Democrat-controlled state Legislature to act.

A group of labor unions and progressive activists recently announced an effort to raise Oregon's minimum wage to $13.50. The attempt is competing with a separate group, 15 Now, which supports a $15 statewide minimum wage.

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The Legislature considered several bills earlier this year that would have raised the minimum wage — each lacked sufficient support. Business interests oppose an increase, saying it would be tough on small business owners.

Avakian, a Democrat, said he supports a $13.50 minimum wage and said the Legislature should make it happen when it convenes again in February.

As labor commissioner, Avakian sets the state's minimum wage based on the Consumer Price Index and oversees its enforcement. He said he was surprised there wasn't enough inflation to trigger even a nickel increase.

The index measures what consumers pay for a market basket of consumer goods and services.

"A low-income family has got to buy food — that's in that (market) basket," Avakian said. "They've also got to pay skyrocketing rent in Portland and Eugene — that's not in that basket, so they're struggling."

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