As minimum wage hike heads to passage, both sides weigh in

TRENTON – The minimum wage in New Jersey appeared headed to easy passage tonight, increasing pay on Jan. 1 by $1 to $8.25.

Along with that hike, there will be automatic adjustments tied to the cost of living as voters today decided to amend the state Constitution.

The contentious issue – pitting business groups against labor leaders and other advocates  – was settled at the polls after attempts to settle it legislatively came to naught.

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity condemned the decision.

Daryn Iwicki, state director for AFP, said, “Over the past dozen years, our liberal legislature has adopted a failing Keynesian, big-government agenda that’s inflicted severe damage on our state’s economy, fiscal condition and unemployment picture. Imposing these bad policies by statute is one thing because future legislatures can roll them back and fix the mistakes of the past.

“That’s why no matter where one stands on the minimum wage, amending our state constitution to impose a wage hike and then tying future increases to CPI is both reckless and stupid. And it’s disturbing to say the least that liberals in control of the legislature have resorted to abusing the amendment process to get back at the governor and achieve a policy victory they could not otherwise accomplish through the normal legislative process.”

However, the liberal N.J. Policy Perspective cheered the vote totals coming in.

President Gordon MacInnes said thatNew Jersey’s voters should be thanked tonight for understanding that the state’s low-wage workers need more than $7.25 an hour to survive in this high-cost state. Increasing New Jersey’s minimum wage will give nearly half a million working New Jerseyans a crucial leg up while pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the state’s economy.”

Gov. Chris Christie, who sailed to re-election today, had vetoed a bill earlier this year that would have increased the minimum wage by $1.25.  Instead, he offered a compromise: Phase in a $1 hike over three years and mothball the cost of living provision.

But the Democratic-controlled Legislature pushed through the constitutional referendum for the voters to have the final say.

Business groups such as the N.J. Chamber of Commerce predicted such an approach – and in particular the constitutionally protected cost of living multiplier – would put the brakes on economic recovery, force layoffs or depress hiring outright, lead to reduced hours, and force higher prices on consumers.

Advocates said such dire predictions never come true, and in fact they said that the recipients of that extra $1 would pour it right back into the economy, purchasing necessities and actually advancing the recovery.

And as for the criticism that amending the Constitution was an improper approach?

“We amended the Constitution for bingo,’’ said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, (D-3), Paulsboro as he shook his head in consternation earlier this day over such arguments.

Right now, 18 states plus Washington, D.C., have a higher minimum wage.

As minimum wage hike heads to passage, both sides weigh in