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$15 minimum wage bill dead in Oregon Senate

State Senate President Peter Courtney unequivocally said Thursday a $15 hourly minimum wage bill won't make it to the floor this session.

Speaking to members of several Southern Oregon chambers of commerce, Courtney acknowledged he will take heat from his own party, but said his mind is made up.

"I have said, and this has gotten me in trouble — I'm not going to do minimum wage this session," the Salem Democrat said. "I will not do minimum wage, and I'm a Democrat and that has not endeared me to my family.

"I support minimum wage, and I said that at the campaign when I ran for re-election," Courtney said. "I'm going to do the sick-leave thing, but I'm not going to do minimum wage. I'm being vilified, and that's OK because as a Democrat that's a litmus test. ... The reason is, I do think you have to be careful about how far you go with these things because of small business owners and economics of small businesses."

He said there will be committee hearings, but the bill won't come to the floor.

"That's a tough statement to make, but I made it here," Courtney said. "I will deal with the heat."

Courtney is still championing Senate Bill 454, which would mandate employers statewide provide sick pay for their workers.

Even without support of the senate president, who determines which bills make the floor, the minimum wage bill could wiggle its way to reality, Grants Pass Republican Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr. told the chamber groups, adding a lot of dead bills are exhumed and attached as riders near the end of the session.

"The speaker (Tina Kotek, D-Portland) wants it more than she wants to breathe," Roseburg Republican Jeff Kruse told the business leaders when asked about the matter.

Medford/Jackson County Chamber CEO Brad Hicks said his organization is relieved to hear Courtney's position.

"We've already seen Seattle create a lot of ex-workers and an exodus of small businesses with their new $15 minimum wage," Hicks said. "That is the type of hit a slowly recovering Oregon economy can hardly bear. Nobody wants Oregonians to flourish and hold family-wage jobs more than chambers of commerce across this state, but prosperity by government edict is no way to achieve that goal."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/ Economic Edge.