Who wins or loses if minimum wage stays put?

Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian announced today Oregon’s minimum wage will go unchanged in 2016.
Nonetheless, Oregon’s minimum wage remains among the highest in the nation.
“Despite rising housing, child care and other household costs, Oregon’s minimum wage will remain $9.25,” the release began. There was no mention of other rising costs, including local and state government fees.
The release highlighted “skyrocketing rents in the Portland (and) Eugene metro areas” without addressing the whys?
State law requires the labor commissioner to run federal Consumer Price Index “market basket” numbers through a matrix to determine minimum wage movement. While anyone who has to track a checking account balance knows costs are going up on most fronts, the CPI fails to account for such a reality.
“It’s time to take action on wages,” Avakian said. “The reality is that Oregon’s wage floor is not keeping pace with the rising cost of rent, child care and other expenses. We should raise our state’s minimum wage so that people working full-time can afford to provide for their families.”
I’d like to know what you think about the minimum wage issue, and what questions aren’t being asked by legislative and agency leaders.

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Meanwhile the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports real spending on travel and tourism accelerated in the second quarter of 2015, increasing at an annual rate of 6.5 percent after increasing to a revised 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015. Real gross domestic product  also accelerated, increasing 3.7 percent  in the second quarter after increasing 0.6 percent.
The agency said leading contributors to the acceleration  were traveler accommodations and  passenger air transportation. Sounds like higher hotel rates and airline fares. Real spending on traveler accommodations accelerated, increasing 13.2 percent in the second quarter after increasing 3.5 percent in the first quarter, partly reflecting higher hotel occupancy rates. Real spending on flights increased 11.6 percent, after increasing 2.5 percent, reflecting increased capacity and decreasing fares.

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Morning mail: Harry & David’s Organic Fruit Club

Got an extra $33, or so, a month lying around and a hankering for organic fruit?
You know about Harry & David’s Fruit of the Month Club, the gourmet food and gift company also has an Organic Fruit Club Collection aimed at impressing clients, the loved ones you left back in New England, or on a weight reduction program.
Here’s the lineup with approximate payload for the next 12 months: September, 10 nectarines; October, 9 Royal Riviera Pears (Comice to locals); November, 10 heirloom apples; December, 9 more pears; January, 13 clementines; February, 6 navel oranges; three or four grapefruit; April, 2 pineapples; May, 14 strawberries 14 strawberries; June, four or five mangoes; July, 2 pounds of dark sweet cherries; nine Oregold peaches grown in the Rogue Valley.
The cost for three months is $99.99 or $349.99 for 12 months.

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More homeowners are breathing in financial fresh air, real estate analytics firms CoreLogic reports.
Millions of homeowners saw the value of their homes plunge beneath the level of their mortgage debt when the housing bubble burst eight years ago. Little by little, owners have resurfaced in the past four or five years, while others merely became economic fish food.
CoreLogic said today 759,000 properties regained equity in the second quarter of 2015, bringing the total number of mortgaged residential properties with equity to 45.9 million, or 91 percent of all mortgaged properties. The Irvine, Calif.-firm said nationwide, borrower equity increased year over year by $691 billion by the end of June. The total number of mortgaged residential properties with negative equity is now at 4.4 million, or 8.7 percent of all mortgaged properties.
For the homes in negative equity status, the national aggregate value of negative equity was $309.5 billion at the end of the quarter, falling approximately $28.5 billion from $338 billion in March.
Powered by the Portland Metropolitan Statistical Area’s surging economy, where just 2.2 percent of the mortgage holders are underwater, Oregon has a 4.1 percent negative equity rate. That’s not quite as good as Washington’s 3.8 percent rate, but better than California (7.3 percent), Nevada (20.6 percent), and Idaho (6.7 percent).

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Roseburg Forest Products said it has completed the purchase of the SierraPine Medium Density Fiberboard facility in Medford. The deal was announced last month.

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Medford area foreclosure rate continues to drop

CoreLogic reports a year-over-year drop in the foreclosure rate for the Medford area.
Foreclosures among outstanding mortgage loans stood at 2.06 percent in June 2015, down 0.60 percentage points compared to June 2014 when it was 2.66 percent.
Still, foreclosure activity in Medford was higher than June’s national foreclosure rate of 1.28 percent.
Reflecting better economic times, Medford’s mortgage delinquency rate decreased in June with 4 percent of mortgage loans delinquent 90 days or more, compared to 5.05 percent a year earlier.

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With kids heading back to school, the Better Business Bureau encourages parents to remind their students the dangers lurking in the digital domain.
The BBB suggests limiting online access, teaching children what not to post online. “Never include full names, addresses, and dates of birth or social security numbers on social media sites.”
The agency notes changing passwords as a precaution. “Use strong passwords on smart phones, tablets and computers. Change the passwords every few weeks and be careful about leaving devices unattended in public areas like dorms or libraries.”
Most important, might be this reminder about student rights. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student records. FERPA requires schools to notify parents and guardians about their school directory policy. It also gives you the right to opt out of the release of directory information to third parties.

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With crude prices declining, the Baker Hughes Weekly Rig Count reports the U.S. Rig Count is down 8 rigs from last week to 877, with oil rigs up 1 at 675, and gas rigs down 9 to 202. During the past year, the U.S. Rig Count is down 1,037 rigs from to 1,914, with oil rigs down 900, and gas rigs down 136.

 

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Have you developed ways to build assets over the long haul?

Thanks to those of you who responded to my cell phone query. Looking for help on another story.
I’m working on a piece about income inequity. Not looking for opinions here, but am looking for ways you’ve tried, successfully or otherwise, to enhance your financial assets over a period of years. I can be reached at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com

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When it comes to summer road trips, we’re No. 1

A new study has determined Oregon is the best state to take a summer road trip.
Not surprising, but definitely a bone of contention for naysayers from other states.
WalletHub’s Best & Worst States for Summer Road Trips weighed 20 components in three broad categories and ranked the Beaver State No. 1 ahead of  Nevada, Minnesota, Washington, and Ohio. At No. 50 is Connecticut, trailing North Dakota, Delaware, Mississippi, and South Dakota.
Oregon ranks No. 3 for Fun & Scenic Attractions, No. 4 for Road Conditions & Safety, and No. 32 for Driving and Lodging Costs.
Well, who’s to argue about the Oregon Coast, Crater Lake, Weird Portland, Autzen Stadium, Hayward Field, incredible state parks and Shakespeare. I don’t know how many of those actually were considered by WalletHub.
I’ve got a pretty good idea about road conditions and safety. Having grown up on the Oregon Coast, I know an average of 35 mph is about as fast as it gets between Memorial Day and Sept. 30. Unless, you’re just begging for a head-on it’s awfully hard to do much damage going 20 mph up or down the coast.
Of course in Portland, automobiles can’t go much faster than 10 mph as they dodge cyclist whizzing by from all directions — never mind the red lights and “Stop” signs. Even on the open roads and freeways, no state mandates slower speeds than Oregon, so the only thing you really have to worry about are tractor-trailers crawling up mountain passes at 15 mph.
Where Oregon ranks below average is driving and lodging costs. In Portland, where most of our visitors spend a few nights, the average stay costs $123.66 (way more than the typical wage earner makes in a day), and that’s before the obligatory transient tax. State Park camping fees are high, especially when you tack on the reservation charge on top of the advertised rate. But in this case, you usually get all you pay for, and sometimes, more. Fuel taxes push Oregon’s prices well above the driver-friendly states.
In the driving and lodging category, WalletHub considered gas prices, toll costs, car repair costs, the price of three-star hotels, amping fees, and the number of lodging units (campgrounds, hostels, condominiums, villas, lodges) per 100,000 residents.
When it came to road conditions, per capita vehicle miles, population Density, driving laws, road quality, bridge quality, fatalities per 100 Million vehicle miles, car Thefts, and violent crime.
Attractions took into account National Park units per 100,000 square miles, number of attractions, nightlife options per 100,000 residents, Scenic Byways, summer weather, and accommodation and food services establishments per 100,000 residents.
In just one component, “Most Scenic Byways” did Oregon rank in the Top 5 or Bottom 5, tying Utah for No. 3.

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Former DCH vice chairman departs Lithia Motors

Former DCH Auto Group vice chairman is leaving Lithia Motors on July 1.
Automotive News reports Susan Scarola,  one of the most high-profile women in auto retailing played a pivotal role in bringing the high-volume import retailer into Lithia’s fold last year. Since the deal was closed in October, she has been Lithia’s  ”industry ambassador.”
“Susan was an invaluable part of the combination of the two organizations, and she was intending to retire after the combination,”  Lithia CEO Bryan DeBoer told Automotive News. “Her role was to find a suitor for DCH, make sure it went well and mentor it for a short period of time.”

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The mafia and Las Vegas have long been linked in truth and fiction.
Now the Dutch Mafia is head to Vegas.
As is usually the case when Grants Pass-based Dutch Bros. opens a drive-thru in a new market it makes a big splash. That’s the case in the latest once again. Here’s a report from Eater Vegas about the new location at 2840 E. Tropicana Ave.

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What Walmart wants, Walmart gets even if it has to barge in the back door. That’s what a coalition of non-profit organizations are alleging in a complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
Here’s what The Washington Post reports about alleged inappropriate activity by Walmart Foundation after  San Francisco Jobs with Justice, Respect DC Coalition, New York Communities for Change, and similar organizations filed a complaint.

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Spoof call of the day.org, or something like that

We all get those nauseating calls from non-existent entities, with spoof numbers either belonging to someone else or no one at all.
Today I returned a call, via my work line, after one spoofer left a voice mail left a number about a fraud investigation. One never knows these days when we might get a mea culpa from a bank or credit card company, so I called the number starting with a Seattle area code.
Officer “Finley” or something along those lines answered, his voice was garbled as was every thing he said subsequently, The one thing I could figure out, was that he assured me if was indeed a spoof call, not from his agency. I’m not sure, but it sounded like he was in the audit department and was getting a barrage of calls from people responding to the spoofer voicemails.
It’s the admission price we pay for living in the digital age, wired, connected, and virtual.
Strangely spoofers remain at large, unaccountable, and apparently, not on the top of agency wishlists.

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Check out online rentals prior to hitting the road


The rise of online vacation rental sites has provided greater access to affordable stays.
Better Business Bureau says there are risks consumers need to understand as well.
Operations such as Airbnb, VRBO and FlipKey supply an array of possibilities, but travelers may want to give some of them a pass during their planning.
Better Business Bureau serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington says it received more than 37,000 inquiries from potential travelers looking for companies to help plan their trips.
The BBB suggests reading reviews, looking for a minimum of three on a given unit with no negative posts. Take a careful look at the photos posted, the bureau suggest professional photos with watermarks will provide the best insight.
Understand there may be transient taxes on top of the advertised price as well as service charges, cleaning fees and security deposits. It’s a good idea to talk with the host ahead of time, asking about cancellations policies and other details.  Websites don’t necessarily perform background checks on rental site hosts, so it’s up to you to do your due diligence.

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A mobile communications trade association says half of the motor vehicles sold this year will have Internet capability and 10 years from now, it will be standard on all cars.
Here is a report from Inside Radio.

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One person’s high-speed data plan is another’s tortoise.  With more and more people working from home, or remotely, broadband speed is more important than ever and will continue at an increasing rate. The Economic Times takes a look at the issue.

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An indepth look at public solar projects

Even on a cloudy day, solar panels are collecting rays.
Here’s the first in a series of reports by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, discussing public solar efforts, the opportunities and barriers. Many of the targeted areas are in the West and Southwest, including Oregon.

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Consumer Federation of America reported 20 percent of Americans know that low credit scores are likely to increase the finance charges on a $20,000, 60-month car loan by more than $5,000. Moreover, more than two-fifths  incorrectly think that the additional charges would be less than $3,000.
Following its fifth-annual national credit score survey, CFA noted understanding the cost implications of low scores for auto loans remains very low. The percentage of those who know that multiple inquiries about getting credit lower one’s FICO or VantageScore credit scores never lower these scores during a 1-2 week window.

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GasBuddy reported Medford’s average retail pump prices remain the same as last week, averaging $3.11 per gallong on Sunday, according to a survey of 64 gas outlets. The national average that edged up 0.4 cents per gallon in the past week to $2.75. (Wouldn’t it be nice to be average?)
GasBuddy indicated pump prices were 80.1 cents per gallon lower than a year ago and are 13.7 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 14.8 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 92.8 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.

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Cash deals for homes inches toward normal levels

Investors made their play in the years after the real estate bubble collapsed pushing huge volumes of distressed housing on to the market.
Cash sales generated to a great degree from investors reallocating funds, are settling down as the real estate market heads toward a normal cycle.
Real estate data and analytics firm CoreLogic reported cash sales are on course to account for one in four home sales by mid-2018.
CoreLogic reported cash sales made up 37.9 percent of total home sales nationally in February, declining from 40.6 percent a year earlier. The Irvine, Calif., firm said year-over-year share of cash sales has dipped 26 straight months, dating back to January 2013. Month over month, the cash sales share fell by 1 percentage point.
In Oregon, February cash deals made up 29 percent of housing transactions. In California, 28 percent of the deals were for cash and in Washington 27 percent. However, in Idaho, the figure was 44 percent.
Core Logic said cash sales share peak January 2011, making up 46.5 percent of home sales nationally. Historically, cash deals accounted for approximately 25 percent of sales. At the same rate as reported in February, the trend line would be the same prior to the bubble in three years.

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    Greg Stiles

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