Backers of a $15 statewide minimum wage initiative have collected enough signatures to put their proposal on the ballot in November. And they appear to have momentum, with a dozen cities including Los Angeles having adopted wage floors higher than the state’s $10 an hour, and polls showing strong public support for an increase. Nevertheless, there is still considerable concern that increasing the minimum wage by an unprecedented amount statewide would hurt rural communities or regions that have less robust local economies.
Faced with such uncertainty and concern, lawmakers in Sacramento are expected to try to come up with an alternative minimum wage proposal that might persuade proponents to pull their initiative from the ballot (an option made available by the initiative reform law passed in 2014). Legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown could suggest a lower dollar figure, a longer implementation timeline for rural areas or carve-outs for certain businesses.
To be sure, Oregon is significantly smaller than California (4 million residents versus 39 million) and it might be easier to draw lines between the state’s urban, suburban and rural areas, unlike the vast sprawl of our metropolitan areas. Still, the Oregon model might offer state leaders and advocates an opportunity to better tailor the minimum wage to a state as economically and geographically diverse as California.