Low-wage workers in New Jersey would get a major raise under legislation now on the governor's desk.
The state Assembly Monday (December 3) passed a bill that would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50, an amount that would be adjusted for inflation each year. Based upon current trends, that could put the wage at $9.49 by 2017.
“More families are relying on low-wage and minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet,” Vincent Prieto, a Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, said in a release. “Raising the minimum wage promotes economic growth by putting money in the pockets of working families."
The change would put New Jersey's minimum wage far above what its neighboring states mandate, ranking it third highest in the nation. Only Oregon ($8.80) and Washington ($9.04) have higher minimum wages, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Both of those states adjust for inflation, as do eight other states.
But it is unlikely Governor Chris Christie will sign the bill as is. The Republican has said he is open to negotiating a one-time wage hike, but opposes the yearly adjustments, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
“Let's be clear on this now: we've got thousands of businesses wiped out,” Christie told nj.com last week after the bill's passage in the Senate. “Is this really now the moment to say to those folks ‘We're going to hit you with a $1.25 increase on March 1, and a (cost-of-living increase) beyond that?'”
Last year, an advisory committee within the state labor department studied New Jersey's minimum wage and recommended it stay put.
New Jersey Democrats control both legislative chambers, but lack the two-thirds majority to override a Christie veto. Anticipating a veto, leaders of both houses have said they will push a constitutional amendment. That would require both chambers to pass the legislation next year. Voters would then weigh in during the 2013 election.
"Democrats are united in their belief in a living wage for all New Jerseyans, and we will now see if the governor shares our core belief,” said Sheila Oliver, the Assembly speaker. “If he does not, then we'll quickly take stock and weigh our next step, including asking the people of New Jersey to decide this important matter."