Senate Labor Committee hears business community opposition on minimum wage

TRENTON – The Senate Labor Committee is taking testimony about the proposal to put in a Constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 and have it increase each year according to the Consumer Price Index.

As on previous occasions, the business coalition expressed opposition to the bill.

Stephanie Riehl of the N.J. Business and Industry Association said it would create a “slippery slope” to change the Constitution to change policies. She called for better workforce training. She added that it takes power away from the Legislature.

Michael Egenton of the state Chamber of Commerce echoed Riehl’s sentiments, adding it would set a bad precedent.  

He said the chamber’s members “grapple every day” with high insurance costs, taxes and regulations.

John Holub of the New Jersey Retailers Association disputed the assertion by many worker groups that hiking the minimum wage would be an economic stimulus, adding that if it was, “we would be first in line to support this initiative.”

“It will only guarantee that their operating costs will increase,” he said. “(There is) no guarantee there will be an increase in sales.”

However, Sen. Sandra Cunningham, (D-33), Jersey City responded that if a family of three is making $15,000, “it’s fine to amend the Constitution.”

But Sen. Dawn Addiego, (R-8), Evesham, said she’s concerned about the timing of the bill and doing it with the Constitution instead of through the Legislature “would tie our hands.”

But Sen. Richard Codey, (D-27), West Orange, reminded the business community that the minimum wage increased during the time he was governor in the mid-2000s.

“The earth didn’t fall, businesses didn’t close,” he said. “We moved on.”

About the current proposal on hiking the minimum wage, Codey said, “It’s time.”

“For all those people who are suffering with no benefits, they deserve something. We should feel for those people.” Senate Labor Committee hears business community opposition on minimum wage