The Oregon Restaurant Association, a group that’s lobbied for years to restore Oregon’s “tip credit,” has given Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley a pretty generous tip: $50,000.
The restaurant owners’ PAC contributed $40,000 Thursday to the Dudley campaign, on top of another $10,000 it gave previously.
A “tip credit” law allows restaurant owners to deduct their workers’ tip money from what they’d otherwise have to pay as minimum wage. Oregon had a tip credit until 1977, when it was repealed; right now it’s one of only five states that don’t allow such a credit.
The ORA contends that the lack of a tip credit, combined with the state’s relatively high minimum wage, has “forced Oregon employers to reduce the number of available jobs, cut back hours to employees, and reduce the amount of wage increases they can give to non-tipped employees.” It also points out that restaurants have to include tip money in calculating how much they owe toward an employee’s taxes and workers’ compensation premiums.
Talking to businesspersons at a campaign event Thursday, Dudley declined to take a position on the tip credit issue. “I don't want to focus on singular issues, but I think as a group you want to look at issues that put us at a competitive disadvantage and see what can be done about them,” he said.
Aside from the fact that the ORA historically has tended to support Republicans, it could have a personal reason for backing Dudley. In 1999 it succeeded in getting the legislature to pass a bill restoring the tip credit, only to see it vetoed by the governor – none other than John Kitzhaber.
Musing on the impact of the tip credit issue in this campaign, Oregonian blogger Jeff Mapes commented: “Politically, one problem the restaurant owners have is that there are a lot more people who receive tips than there are employers who would benefit from a tip credit.”
That might be one smart reason for Dudley to remain officially neutral on the issue – while quietly taking hefty contributions from the ORA.