Into lion’s den: Sweeney touts minimum wage hike at Chamber of Commerce event

MONROE – Senate President Steve Sweeney on Wednesday defended his call for increasing the minimum wage and changing the state Constitution if Gov. Chris Christie vetoes the measure.

Sweeney’s bill, which will be voted on Thursday in the Senate, calls for increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50, and tying annual increases to the consumer price index (CPI).

Addressing the state Chamber of Commerce at the Forsgate Country Club, Sweeney told the estimated 100 attendees that he knows “it’s not a big thing in this room.”

The chamber is against Sweeney’s proposal.

The state’s minimum wage was last raised in 2005, but Sweeney said the bill back then fell short. He said if a CPI requirement had been put in place then, there wouldn’t be any discussion going on today, and the wage would be at $8.

He hopes the governor signs the bill, which is highly unlikely.

At a press conference today, Christie questioned whether now is the time to raise the minimum wage.

“We’re going to give him a chance to sign the bill,” Sweeney told the chamber.  “I can assure you if he CV’s (conditionally vetoes) the CPI, we’re moving forward with the constitutional amendment.”

He said that increasing wages through such a mechanism is justified, since it would help “low-end workers” who could put money right back into the economy.

“The Constitution is about improving the quality of life for the people in the state of New Jersey,” he said.

The Senate president said tax cuts don’t necessarily put money back into the economy. He gave an example of one of his relatives who received a $60,000 tax cut, but put the money in the bank.

But others would spend it. “If you gave 60 ironworkers $1,000 each, they would spend every penny of it,” Sweeney said.

He said he’s met business people who are open to some kind of increase, albeit a limited one, and others who are just dead set against it, philosophically.

Into lion’s den: Sweeney touts minimum wage hike at Chamber of Commerce event