Just as Thursday marked the start of a new year, it also marked the day that Oregon’s increased minimum wage took effect.

On Jan. 1, Oregon’s minimum climbed to $9.25 per hour, a 15-cent raise that was announced by state Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian in September.

The increase means an extra $156 in 2015 for minimum wage workers averaging 20 hours a week. The change is estimated to impact more than 140,000 workers statewide who are paid minimum wage.

Overall, Avakian said, the increase is expected to generate more than $25 million in new consumer spending.

Oregon’s minimum wage is adjusted each year with the Consumer Price Index, an adjustment done by law after Ballot Measure 25 passed in 2002.

But this year, more states than ever will also boost minimum wages on New Year’s Day. Voters in states like Nebraska, South Dakota and Arkansas all approved minimum wage hikes in the November elections.

And while Oregon still offers one of the highest minimum wages nationwide (second only to Washington), other states may soon be catching up. Alaska, Massachusetts and Rhode Island will increase their respective minimum wages by a full dollar; the increase in South Dakota alone is set for $1.25, bringing the new minimum wage for 2015 to $8.50 per hour.

A national debate is ongoing regarding a proposed federal minimum wage of $15, and a similar proposal for Oregon is gaining traction among Democrats.

Ten Democratic lawmakers in Oregon’s statehouse signed on in December to sponsor a bill that would also raise Oregon’s minimum wage to $15. If passed later this year, the hike could take effect as soon as 2016.

lfosmire@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6709 or follow on Twitter at @fosmirel

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