Pennacchio, other GOP lawmakers sought compromise on minimum wage

TRENTON – Republicans argued unsuccessfully today that the minimum wage hike bill would harm – not help – the economy.

Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, (R-26), Montville, sought an amendment during today’s Senate Budget Committee hearing to consider a bipartisan amendment to address minimum wage concerns, but the motion was voted down in the Democratic-controlled committee.

The panel would eventually pass the wage hike bill 7-6, with Democratic Sen. Jeff Van Drew, (D-1), Dennis Township, voting against it with the GOP members.

Pennacchio had said during the hearing that he was agreeable to considering an increase to $8.50 but over the course of three years, not in one year, and without a cost of living adjustment automatically part of the bill.

He said in a release that he was “fully willing to work off of the Assembly Speaker’s bill to responsibly address minimum wage without jeopardizing employment or economic growth.”

Sen. President Steve Sweeney, who sat in on the committee hearing today, said this bill would be sent to the governor and if he vetoes it, the Legislature would pursue other options, namely a constitutional amendment.

Several Republican senators on the Budget panel said today that if the bill had deleted the cost of living adjustment, then the bill might have gained some bipartisan support.

Earlier in the day, Speaker Sheila Oliver said GOP leaders had offered 25 cents at one point, but that a $1.50 hike from $7.25 to $8.50 was necessary to help the working poor in New Jersey.

A GOP source said that Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. had repeatedly approached Oliver about a compromise.

“He opened with a raise to $8 phased in over three years with no CPI, and that was a starting point for negotiations,’’ the source said.

 “The Speaker was uninterested in dealing, but to say that we offered a measly 25 cents is just false,’’ the source said. “Our leader made a good faith effort to make this a bipartisan deal we all could live with, and the Democrats had no interest whatsoever in even talking to us about it.”

Pennacchio, other GOP lawmakers sought compromise on minimum wage