TRENTON – The state Senate approved Democratic-sponsored 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 (CPI).
“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. And by tying future increases to the CPI, we will ensure that people can still see a meaningful wage increase, but one that does not cause severe hardship for business owners.”
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.
“It is incomprehensible that one of the wealthiest and most expensive states in the country still relegates a portion of its workforce to below the poverty line,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex) “Our minimum wage should be there to help keep people out of poverty, not to spend 40 hours or more each week at a job just to stay in poverty. Hard working people who just want to be able to provide deserve better than that – they deserve a wage that can help them support their families.”
“Anyone telling you the current minimum wage in New Jersey is a livable wage has never actually tried to live on minimum wage,” said state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex, Morris). “Increasing the minimum wage is not just about helping the families that need it most, but it is also about ensuring they don’t fall backwards. Hard working people in New Jersey are increasingly getting squeezed by raising prices and raising costs – they need and deserve a boost.”
“It is clear that the large minimum wage increase that Democrats are pushing will make it harder for out of work New Jerseyans to find jobs, and more difficult for struggling small businesses to maintain the employees they already have,” said Republican state Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego, who voted against the bill. “Furthermore, enacting automatic annual wage increases will add an ever increasing burden on employers. We don’t have a crystal ball that lets us see future economic conditions, so mandating future wage increases now is simply irresponsible.”
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. That bill was signed by then-Governor Codey, and was sponsored by Sweeney.
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 Assembly.