Category Archives: Legislature

The Portland Legislature

Oregon, Portland, USA

The Portland Legislature is making it very clear that we live in the state of Portland, not the state of Oregon.

A current minimum wage proposal of $14.75 for Portland, $13.50 for urban/rural mix counties & $12.50 for RURAL counties has one last hurdle to clear this week, The Oregon House of Representatives. Talk about a state divided.

3 Tier Min Wage
NOBODY wants this proposal except the people who graduated from Portland State with a Philosophy Degree and are confused about why they cannot make a living. Try getting a degree with an actual job attached to it. Heard it works well.

However, the Portland legislature is cramming this minimum wage proposal down the throats of everyone outside of Portland. They are telling us we will “like it” because it is less bad than the alternative. The alternative is that we are being threatened with  two statewide ballot initiatives; $13.50 for entire state or $15 for entire state.

NEWS FLASH: A bad bill is still a bad bill.

The Portland Legislature & the Governor have decided small business and family farms are worth the sacrifice in order to avoid this “threat” and most importantly to please their donors. It is no secret that the unions bankroll the leadership in the Oregon Legislature, they also are the same group backing and pushing the ballot initiatives. Governor Brown received a $100,000 campaign donation from the unions a week before she unveiled her minimum wage proposal.

Oregon Governor knows Minimum wage is bad

People from all sides of the state who are opposed to this minimum wage proposal testified, sent emails, showed up and talked face to face with legislators. We told them “This is not workable for small business.” “This is not workable for local food”. “This is not workable for family farmers.”  “We are moving to Idaho.” “This is not workable for the foundation of Oregon.” 

But they failed to believe us versus Portland.

The Portland legislature all told us this is the only way to “avoid an extreme ballot measure.” They said they understood us and they “are trying to make provisions for small business & farmers.”  This way “we can fix it in 2017.” I was specifically told, “I am convinced that if the measure got to the ballot it would pass strongly.  I view the choice as one between two bad choices.” 

So if you know the ballot initiative is bad and if you know bill in the legislature is bad, then why don’t we fight it all together? How about we use this discussion for a bipartisan effort to educate Oregonians about economics? There are so many opportunities for both sides of the aisle to come together and discuss Oregon’s economic strengths & weaknesses. Let’s talk about what options are available for the legislature to help promote (not mandate) family wage jobs and economic growth in this state.

But Nope. “Screw you Oregon. Portland is the state.”

 

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Filed under Economy, Future of Agriculture, Legislature, Oregon, Rural

Rural Oregon, not a Priority

Last legislative session I wrote about Rural Oregon was a “feel good” priority. At least the majority pretended to care about the people who live outside of Portland and Eugene.

Now, in this 2016 February session, it is abundantly clear that Rural Oregon is not a priority to the Oregon Legislature.  No one has time to pretend to care in a 35 day session. Especially when you have to push a partisan radical agenda through.

In the next 35 days the party in charge wishes to push the following down Rural Oregon’s economically parched throat:

Minimum wageHELLO is anyone listening!?!? In January, a bus full of Eastern Oregonians showed up at the Capitol for a public hearing on minimum wage. Their message was clear, “Raise the Wage and we are moving our businesses and JOBS to Idaho.”

We are Oregonians, we love our state but when your state turns your back on you and your livelihood then it is time for tough love. That means taking our dollars and jobs elsewhere in order for us to survive.

My friend Shelly has summed it up best:

“If a doctor tells me I have high blood pressure, I do. I might get a second opinion, but I’m going to believe the doctor. You know why? Because he’s a doctor, and went to medical school. I am not a doctor and I did not study the human body and medicine. If the business community is telling you we can’t do this, we can’t. You know why? Not because we want to be richer. We want to continue to employ our employees that have been with us loyally for decades. We want to continue to pay our taxes, support the local counties and state, and we want to continue promoting Oregon to the communities, states, and the world. If the agriculture community is telling you we can’t do this, we can’t. You know why? Because we farm, you don’t. We know the cost inputs, and the money we get paid for our crops. It’s not an opinion, it’s fact. And last night you heard it over, and over, and over again. Why don’t you believe us?

 

Cap and Trade Investment – In a little more than a month’s time, the legislature expects to create a whole phaux-economic market for carbon. Actually, the legislature is going to direct a state bureaucracy to do it, they are just gonna outline some of the guidelines in a bill. The money generated by the blackmail of industries  the carbon auctions will then be reinvested into various projects, including disadvantaged/rural communities.

The Oregon Legislature knows that a lot of businesses are going to leave if minimum wage is raised. Cap and Trade Investment is an additional tax so they can give handouts to those who cannot find jobs because of the Legislature’s terrible faux-economic polices.

What happened to implementing policies that promote job creation? Policies that punish the producers for producing just means someone else down the line has to pay for it. The person who pays is the consumer aka you and me.

Raising Taxes – Oregon claims to not have enough money, that is BS. They have enough money, they just want more to spend frivolously. It is not ok for anyone else to live outside their means so why is it ok for government?

Their goal is to raise taxes on those companies that GROSS not net over $25 million in sales. A person can have a lot in sales but have very small margins, meaning Gross Income/Sales minus expenses equal net revenue. Sales does not equate profit.

They claim it will only affect “the evil out of state corporation.” However I can name half a dozen companies that are owned locally that gross over $25 million in sales. Again, Oregon Legislature is wishing to push more business out of this state.

Lack of acknowledgement from leadership confirms Rural Oregon is not a Priority.

This was obvious in a recent interaction between Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, House Majority leader Jennifer Williamson and House Minority Leader Mike McLane. The majority party’s leaders could not answer nor did they try to answer Representative McLane’s questions about their policies effects on Rural Oregon. Maybe they did not know Oregon had a town called Lakeview?

Frankly, the blatant disregard for anywhere other than Portland is disgusting. All of the above policies will have a negative effect on Rural Oregon, from costing jobs to forcing people out business. Enough is enough and we need to remember this in November.

Rural Oregon Not a Priority

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Filed under Economy, Legislature, Oregon, Rural

Why Raising Oregon’s Minimum Wage is a Bad Idea

Last night, I testified in opposition to raising Oregon’s minimum wage. Here is my entire testimony.

April 13, 2015

Senate Committee on Workforce
House Committee on Business and Labor
Oregon State Capitol

RE: Raising Oregon’s minimum wage – Opposed

Chair Dembrow, Chair Holvey & Committee,

I am Marie Bowers Stagg, a fifth generation farmer in Linn & Lane Counties. We farm primarily grass seed, wheat & meadowfoam. Like a typical farmer my job is a smorgasbord of everything; I run the baling crew, I do the planting, I drive fertilizer & spray truck along with many other tasks. I also do the books on the farm, which includes the payroll.

Our full time farm workforce consists of my husband, my dad, my mom, two non-family members and of course me. Full time employees are offered benefits and are paid a living wage, their skill set dictates what that wage may be. However we do depend on a seasonal workforce for harvest & preparing fields for planting.

In 2014 we hired seven local students ages 14-21 to drive combines, balers and tractors. They are paid based on years and experience. We start a new employee, who is typically 14 or 15 years of age, at minimum wage. Pay raises are potentially given throughout the season if performance warrants it. If an experienced employee returns the following season they are given a raise at that point too.

Minimum wage has a real fiscal impact on the farm.

On our farm 50% of our expenses are composed of three specific things: fertilizer, rent and labor. In 2014 our pay scale at the end of season for the seven employees ranged from $9.20 to nearly $12. Remember, minimum wage was $9.10 last year.

I calculated the fiscal impact raising the minimum wage would have on our farm based on the hours these kids worked from June 1, 2014 to September 30, 2014.

Currently, on a per acre basis our cost for the seven employees is $9.07/acre.

At $15/hour our cost would go to $13.65/acre, an increase $4.58/acre. 

At $13.50/hour our cost would go to $12.28/acre, an increase $3.21/acre. 

In other terms, at current market conditions we would need to increase our yields to produce at least 75,000 more pounds of annual ryegrass. If we knew a way to do this in a short time frame, we would, but yield is dictated by many factors, minimum wage is not one of those factors.

If the Oregon Legislature wishes to mandate we increase our expenses, preferably I would like to invest into something that would increase productivity. For the amount certain parties think we should be spending on current employees we could hire three or four more people.

My family has been hiring local students for over half a century. I have had middle-aged adults come up to me and tell me working for my family taught them how to work. They wouldn’t be the person they are today without the experience they got from working on the farm. Yet, with these current minimum wage proposals these valuable life skills would be in jeopardy, as we would seek alternatives such as a foreign workforce.

My head baler driver, Natassia is a senior at Oregon State University. She will be graduating this spring in pre-vet and start veterinary school in the fall. She has worked for us every summer she has been in college. She is a true example of how working on a farm has helped her prepare for her future career, in financial terms as well as with skill sets.

According to Natassia, “Working for Bashaw Land & Seed has made it so that I don’t have to juggle work and school at the same time. I work all summer and make what I would have made throughout the school year if I worked year round. This means I have time to study and get into vet school. I now have an education and don’t need a lower skills job that would pay minimum wage. Also, working on the farm has taught me tons of transferable skills such as making snap decisions under pressure.”

Natassia is one of the many seasonal employees my family has seen grow as a person and worker. It makes me proud that our farm can provide Oregon with such high quality employees. Yet, raising the minimum wage would make stories like Natassia’s a thing of the past. I do not think that’s what we want for Oregon.

If the minimum wage were to increase we will look at hiring our entire seasonal workforce from outside the country. In past years we have hired at least one worker from South Africa and New Zealand. Moving forward this may become our new normal to hire entire crews of foreign experienced workers and hiring local students would be a thing of the past.

I urge you to oppose the minimum wage increase; it would hurt Oregon farmers and Oregon’s future workforce. Thank you for your time today.

Me opposing increasing Oregon's Minimum wage last night in front of the committee

Me opposing increasing Oregon’s Minimum wage last night in front of the committee

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Filed under Agriculture, Economy, Legislature, Oregon, Rural