TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie has rejected a proposed $1.25 increase to New Jersey’s minimum wage, instead calling for a $1 increase to be phased in over three years in his conditional veto.
The state Legislature had passed a bill that would have increased New Jersey’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour on March 1 and tied automatic yearly increases to the Consumer Price Index.
According to Christie, the Democrat-sponsored bill represents a one-sided approach that will reverse New Jersey’s economic progress by taking a step backwards. “In these difficult times those most impacted by challenging economic conditions – our state’s working families – need assistance,” the governor said. “Instead of the lopsided approach taken by the Legislature, this plan delivers a responsible, balanced approach that increases the minimum wage by one dollar over a phase-in period of three years….”
“We are extremely disappointed in the Governor’s action today. The proposed increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour would have not only helped New Jersey’s working families who are struggling to get by, but would have also boosted our economy, generating millions in additional economic activity and creating thousands of jobs,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, director of New Jersey Citizen Action.
State Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. defended Christie’s decision. “The Governor has rightly rejected a partisan bill to set New Jersey’s minimum wage on auto pilot regardless of the economic circumstances or needs of job creators. The recommendations for changes made in his veto statement are the reasonable and responsible way to increase the minimum wage without telling New Jersey’s business community to, in effect, drop dead.”
Republican state Sen. Joe Pennacchio argued that members of both parties see the need to increase the minimum wage, but blamed Democrats for an unwillingness to compromise. “The governor’s conditional veto is further proof that many Republicans and Democrats agree that the state’s minimum wage should be increased,” he said. “We, now in conjunction with Gov. Christie, have offered predictable annual increases over three years so that small businesses can budget to remain stable and grow.”
“Gov. Christie’s dollar increase over two years and removal of indexing from the bill to raise minimum wage, was to presumably help small businesses, but he has it backwards,” said Eric Cedano, owner of Fast Photo Plus in Elizabeth, and member of NJ-MSA. “Indexing is the best type of ‘phasing in’ of a minimum wage increase for small businesses as the increase will be guaranteed to adjust slightly every year at a steady pace. Furthermore, a $1 increase spread over three years is not enough to make an impact in consumers’ spending. What my business needs is customers with more money in their pockets and 25 cents this year, 50 cents next and another 25 cents three years later doesn’t cut it.”
New Jersey is currently one of 23 states with a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, the same as the federal minimum.
In addition to the phased in $1 per hour minimum wage increase, the governor also proposed a full restoration of the New Jersey Earned Income Tax Credit. At 25 percent of the federal tax credit, the state EITC would be increased from the current level of 20 percent of the federal benefit and be fully implemented in taxable year 2014, providing a $550 benefit to the average eligible beneficiary.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic) pledged to move forward with the procedure to put a constitutional amendment raising the state’s minimum wage with annual indexed adjustments on the ballot in November to let voters decide.