By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Minimum wage? How about reducing COL?

Liberal politicians, union interests and many well-intended citizens want Oregon’s minimum wage raised by 50-60 percent. Like so much political noise, however, it’s a proposal made behind blinders hiding related issues.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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In Oregon, we suffer because of an extremely high cost of living, driven in great measure by housing costs. Perhaps our leaders should focus on solving the state’s underlying cost of living imbalance before risking unintended consequences of a major hike in the minimum wage.

Oregon’s $9.25 minimum wage already is 8th highest in the country — 18 percent higher than the federal minimum $7.25, and 15 percent higher than the national average.

Five states, all in the South, have no set minimum wage. Elsewhere, the highest is $10 in California and Massachusetts, followed by Alaska at $9.75. As widely reported, a nationwide movement has convinced a few cities and counties to adopt or phase in minimum wage hikes to $15.

That’s what the true believers want for Oregon. One of them is Gov. Kate Brown, who has proposed $15.52 in the far-reaching Portland metro area and $13.50 elsewhere in Oregon. That plan likely is a non-starter during this year’s short legislative session, but the stage is being set for ballot measure battles to come.

Of course, none of this addresses the high cost of living in Oregon.

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center lists Oregon as having the 8th highest cost of living in the country, up from 14th in 2014. Hawaii is No. 1 by a wide margin due to excessive costs of housing, utilities and groceries; New York is No. 2 because of its extreme housing costs.

Oregon actually is in reach of third place if current trends continue.

In 2015 we led the nation in inbound moves for the third consecutive year, according to United Van Lines of St. Louis. Our housing shortage drives up rent prices, and our government-stimulated costs of development add major expense to new housing.

The result is an Oregon housing cost index almost 50 percent higher than the national average. We’re fortunate to enjoy the country’s lowest utility rates — almost 30 percent below the national average — but that’s only a dent in our high cost of housing.

Increasing the federal minimum wage may make sense. But before Oregon leaders push to be twice the current federal minimum, they should find ways to help reduce our excessively high cost of living.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com of 503-687-1223.

Comments

Don Dix

Minimum Wage is the bottom rung of normal paychecks (excepting some ag labor). All the rungs are proportional to one another, the higher rungs having a larger wage than those below. If the bottom rung is raised, all others are as well.

Somehow the proponents of this bs don't want to see the whole picture, only the fact that this is their chance to pass anything that gives them more $$$$ to waste!

I would like to hear an explanation how raising the min. wage 40%-60% won't effect the cost of doing business in this state in a very negative way .... 'business friendly' will not be a term used by companies looking to locate!

Scott Gibson

Cogently presented case, Jeb. I think a major reason that the legislature looks to the minimum wage as a solution to the cost of living is that it can be compelled. Trying to solve the cost of living is highly complex, and the power of government to affect it is circumscribed. But the legislature can raise the amount business must pay by simple fiat. It is just too tempting, and therein lies the danger. It provides a simple answer to a complex problem, and it is bumper sticker ready. Hopefully the business community can temper the temptation and inject a bolus of economic reality that will moderate the passion for easy fixes.

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