STATE — President Barack Obama on Friday singled out New Jersey’s embattled Republican Governor for balking at a push to raise the minimum wage, a move favored by most Americans.
During a meeting with 14 Democratic governors at the White House, Obama said Republicans are out of touch with their constituents on the issue, and sought to build momentum for his effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2016.
Last year, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have raised the state’s minimum wage but voters approved a ballot measure giving the lowest paid workers a raise despite GOP opposition.
The President noted that much of the activity surrounding his push to address income inequality through higher wages is happening on a state level in Hawaii, Washington, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois and elsewhere.
“This is not just good policy. It also happens to be good politics,” Obama said. “Because the truth of the matter is the overwhelming majority of Americans think that raising the minimum wage is a good idea.”
“For example, in New Jersey, even though the Republican governor (Chris Christie) opposed it, it passed by 60 percent,” Obama said.
Obama wants to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from the current $7.25. Polls show three quarters of Americans favor the plan.
The proposal has little chance of approval by Congress. The Congressional Budget Office said it would lead to the loss of about half a million jobs by late 2016, even as it lifts almost a million people out of poverty.
The meeting on Friday focused on state initiatives to raise the minimum wage. Obama made a similar jab at Christie, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, during a dinner on Thursday with the Democratic governors.
“Governor Christie opposed it; it got 60 percent of the vote — because voters understood this is the right thing to do, and it will be good for the economy, not bad for the economy,” he said.
Christie’s national political ambitions have been threatened recently by the disclosure of his aides’ roles in the New Jersey lane closures for the George Washington Bridge, which caused days of traffic in the town of Fort Lee. Emails show that his staff closed the lanes in September after Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor declined to support Christie’s re-election bid last year.
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