PORTLAND -- The state's minimum wage will rise 10 cents to $8.50 per hour next year, State Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian announced Monday.

The increase parallels a 1.15 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index since August of 2009, he said.

This modest increase is the result of a slowly but steadily rising cost of living facing Oregon workers, Avakian said. By helping workers and their families preserve their purchasing power in difficult times, our strong minimum wage law also benefits our local economies, where workers spend most of their paychecks.

The increase is voter-approved. A 2002 ballot measure required an annual minimum wage adjustment based on inflation as measured by the CPI.

Oregon and nine other states go through such an annual adjustment. Washington, where the current minimum wage is $8.55 an hour, is expected to announce their change at the end of the month.

The Oregon Center for Public Policy, which tracks the state's economy, praised the increase, especially its timing.

The added income will come when a six cent increase in the state gas tax, enacted by the 2009 legislature, takes effect, said the group's analyst, Steve Robinson.

Though the gas tax helps fund important improvements to our state's transportation infrastructure, it takes a bigger bite out of the income of minimum wage workers, compared to better-paid workers, said Robinson.

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