The state Senate voted 23-16 on Thursday to approve a 17 percent increase in the minimum wage, despite objections from CIANJ and its colleagues. The business coalition asserted that the new $8.50 hourly rate will drive up labor costs and result in layoffs and other cutbacks in entry-level jobs – harming the very population lawmakers say they want to help.
Sen. Jeff Van Drew was the only member of the Democratic caucus who agreed with the business advocates that the increase was especially wrong in the wake of the Superstorm Sandy as every business sector tries to recover.
Not only does the legislation call for a hike, effective March 1, it establishes annual increases tied to the consumer price index. If it is approved, New Jersey’s minimum wage would have the third highest in the nation and it would be the second state in the Northeast to allow annual adjustments.
This move by the Legislature will continue to erode New Jersey’s ability to compete with other states. On Monday the Assembly will vote on the measure, and if it is approved it will go to the governor’s desk. A few months ago Gov. Christ Christie had said he was willing to discuss the issue with the leaders of the Legislature. But since New Jersey was pummeled by Sandy, the governor said “I’m willing to consider a responsible minimum wage package but let’s be clear on this thing. We’ve got thousands of businesses wiped out and 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?’”