STATE — Voters may increase the pay of New Jersey’s lowest-earning employees by approving a referendum on the November ballot that would to boost the state minimum wage by $1 and tie future increases to inflation.
New Jersey’s minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour, the same as the federal standard. Twenty-three states have a wage floor in line with the feds; 18 states mandate a higher rate than the federal standard and in four states it’s lower, according to U.S. Labor Department data.
Democrats supporting a minimum wage hike sent Republican Gov. Chris Christie a bill that would have given the state’s poorest workers $8.50 an hour, a $1.25-per-hour raise that would have meant weekly wages for full-time workers of $340.
The wage floor would have also risen automatically every year based on the Consumer Price Index under the proposal by Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex).
Christie vetoed that measure, even though the cost of living in the Garden State is about 30 percent higher than the national average, according to a study by the New Jersey Minimum Wage Advisory Commission.
New Jersey’s last minimum wage increase, from $7.15 an hour to $7.25, occurred in 2010, when the federal rate was also raised.
An analysis by New Jersey Policy Perspective and the Economic Policy Institute calculated that overall economic activity in the state would rise by $278 million in the first year after the wage hike is approved, while wages would increase by $489 million.
The increase would boost the paychecks of more than 500,000 residents without any significant adverse effect on business, the analysis said.
Christie sent the bill back saying he would sign it if changes were made shrinking the increase from $8.50 to $8.25 per hour, phasing it in over three years, and eliminating a provision tying the wage to inflation.
Democratic lawmakers responded by allowing voters to make the choice when they vote in November.
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