A state Senate committee will weigh in on a proposal to increase New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 an hour this coming Monday. The bill from Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3) and Joseph Vitale (D-19) would have the minimum wage increase from $8.38 an hour to $10.10 an hour in 2017, then mandate gradual increases until hitting that $15 benchmark as early as 2021. At that point, any new increase would be tied to rises in the state’s Consumer Price Index.
The bill goes to the Senate Labor Committee May 16, at 11:30 a.m. Sweeney said Wednesday that if Governor Chris Christie vetoes the legislation, he will go through constitutional channels by putting the wage increase to voters in the form of a ballot question.
“This is an issue of financial fairness and economic equality,” said Sweeney in a statement. “New Jersey workers deserve to be paid a living wage that enables them to support themselves and their families. No one who works a full-time job should be living in poverty, especially at a time when so much of the nation’s wealth flows up to the richest one percent.”
Vitale, the bill’s Senate co-sponsor, called the minimum wage effort an attempt to improve quality of life for New Jersey’s low-wage workers.
“We need to close the widening gap of income inequality and this will help,” said Senator Vitale. “We all know how much it costs to support your family and care for your children. Imagine trying to get by on $335 a week, or $17,000 a year, which is what a full-time, minimum wage worker earns. That is not a livable wage and that is no way for working people to live.”
A previous ballot question sponsored by Sweeney successfully raised the minimum wage $7.25 to $8.25 during Christie’s reelection campaign in 2013. Assembly Speaker Vince Prieto (D-32) has signed onto an Assembly version that hews to the same terms as Sweeney’s bill.
The bill has courted some opposition from groups like the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, and from members of the Christie administration. NJBIA President Michele Siekerka said earlier this year that Sweeney’s proposed wage hikes would “increase the cost of doing business at a time when the state is just recovering from the recession with three years of slow and steady growth.”
Callign the increase “economy-wrecking,” a spokesman for the governor described the bill as ” designed to pander to narrow constituencies.”