Assembly Panel Advances Bill To Increase N.J.’s Minimum Wage

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TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats to increase New Jersey’s hourly minimum wage to $8.50 and require the rate to then be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index was released Thursday by the Assembly Labor Committee by a vote of 6-2-1.

The bill, which would boost the minimum wage as of July 1, is sponsored by Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic), Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex), Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), Speaker Pro Tem Jerry Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset), Majority Conference Leader Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Budget Chairman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen) and Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex).

During the Assembly reorganization ceremony in January, Oliver announced increasing the minimum wage – which is now $7.25 per hour – would be a Democratic priority this legislative session.

The bill (A-2162) specifically increases New Jersey’s hourly minimum wage rate to $8.50 on July 1, 2012 and then requires that, starting in calendar year 2013, the minimum wage be adjusted annually based on any increase in the Consumer Price Index, with the adjustment taking effect on July 1 of each year.

“This is economic stimulus and a recognition that thousands of households in New Jersey are struggling to subsist on minimum wage jobs that do not allow them to support their families,” Oliver said. “This is about livable wages for the lowest-income earners. Quite simply, we should all support economic stimulus, increased consumer spending and livable wages.”

“Boosting the minimum wage has wide reaching positive economic benefits, acting as an economic stimulus,” Spencer said. “As five Nobel Laureates and six past presidents of the American Economic Association stated in joining hundreds of other economists in calling for raising the minimum wage, a higher minimum wage can significantly improve the lives of low-income workers and their families, without the adverse effects that critics have claimed. It’s the right thing to do.”

“Having a minimum wage that accurately reflects the state’s economic realities is common sense, but also an essential economic development tool that will have an immediate positive effect on our economy,” Greenwald said. “Traditionally, New Jersey has been a leader in providing economic security for its lower-income working families by ensuring that the state mandates a fair minimum wage. The time to raise the state’s minimum wage is now.”

“With the worst recession in a generation still being felt across the nation, Democrats are focused on getting New Jersey’s economy going again while helping working families make ends meet,” Green said. “Raising the minimum wage should be a key part of an economic recovery agenda. It’s also a must for many families struggling to get by in these difficult times.”

“By boosting pay in the low-wage jobs on which more families are relying than ever, a stronger minimum wage will help restore the consumer spending that powers our economy and that local businesses need in order to grow,” Johnson said. “A robust minimum wage is a key building block of sustainable economic recovery. It’s long past time to provide this basic fairness.”

“The minimum wage is becoming more and more important for our economy, since more workers are spending more time in low-wage jobs,” Prieto said. “As a result, more families are relying on low-wage and minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. Raising the minimum wage promotes economic growth by putting money in the pockets of working families.”

“About 1.4 million low-income workers across the country started the new year with a minimum-wage increase, but not in New Jersey,” Wisniewski said. “Minimum wage increases stimulate the economy by increasing consumer spending, without adding to state and federal budget deficits. Consumer spending drives 70 percent of the economy, and increasing that ability to spend is key for jumpstarting production and re-hiring.”

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have higher minimum wages than New Jersey. Even much lower-cost-of-living states such as Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Illinois, and Montana have higher minimum wages. In Washington State, the minimum wage is $9.04. Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington all increased their minimum wages this year.


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