TRENTON – Democratic legislation that would increase the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour from its current rate of $7.25, and tie future increases to the Consumer Price Index was released by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.
“For years, New Jersey has assigned a dollar amount to the minimum wage that is woefully inadequate,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “In fact, it is a complete failure. An increase must happen. Moreover, the additional money earned by those making minimum wage will go right back into the economy. We are giving Governor Christie an opportunity to do right by hard working people by signing this bill into law. If the governor won’t sign the bill, then we will go directly to the voters to get it done.”
The sponsors noted that at the current minimum wage, a single parent working a minimum wage job to take care of his or her family earns only $15,080 annually – below the federal poverty line.
“The minimum wage should be a way for someone to work their way out of poverty, not to spend 40 hours each week at a job just to stay in poverty,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex). “It’s shameful that one of the wealthiest states in the nation still relegates a portion of its workforce to below the poverty line. Our residents deserve better than minimum – they deserve a wage that can help them support their families.”
New Jersey’s minimum wage last increased in 2009, when the federal minimum wage was increased to $7.25 per hour. Prior to that, state law enacted in 2005 shepherded in a three-year period of growth that saw the rate increase from $5.15 per hour to $7.15 per hour.
If enacted, the $8.50 minimum wage would be the third-highest in the country, trailing only Washington State and Oregon.
The bill, S-3, now heads to the full Senate.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie has expressed willingness to negotiate with Democrats on the issue, but he has not indicated whether he would sign the bill into law.
Conservative business groups oppose the legislation, arguing that it will raise costs and force businesses to reduce their workforce.