TRENTON – With a vote on increasing the minimum wage looming this afternoon in the Senate – then again Monday in the Assembly – a business group reiterated its opposition.
The arguments against raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 – and including automatic adjustments tied to the Consumer Price Index – focus on what opponents say will be a competitive disadvantage N.J. businesses will incur while dealing with post-Sandy rebuilding.
The Democrat-controlled Legislature also is proposing a constitutional amendment should Gov. Chris Christie eventually veto the bill.
“Including a minimum wage increase in the Constitution takes away power from the Legislature to respond to economic conditions and economic emergencies,” N.J. Business and Industry Association President Philip Kirschner said in a release today.
“Small businesses at the Jersey Shore have been devastated by Superstorm Sandy,” Kirschner said. “They are facing a mammoth rebuilding job and a challenging tourism season because of the storm. Many of these businesses rely on seasonal workers making the minimum wage. Legislators shouldn’t add to their burden by hitting them with a 17 percent minimum wage increase.”
Although some GOP legislators have said they were willing to negotiate a compromise, Senate President Steve Sweeney has been firm in stating that a wage hike is overdue, and that if Christie vetoes the bill, the Democrats will pursue the constitutional amendment.
Still, NJBIA urged lawmakers to vote no. Kirschner said a wage hike will not have the desired effect.
“Instead, businesses will cut workers’ hours, hire fewer workers or simply lay people off,” he said.
Sweeney has said, however, that lower- and middle-income wage earners will spend that money, helping the economy during a critical period. Also, he said there were similar doom-and-gloom warnings the last time the minimum wage was increased and they did not come true.
Support and opposition for the bill does not fall strictly along party lines. Democratic Sen. Jeff Van Drew from Cape May County voted against the bill in the Budget Committee, calling it one of the toughest votes of his career.