CALDWELL – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill last week that would have boosted the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by the year 2021. Following that decision, state Democrats said they would be pursuing a ballot question that would allow the public to vote on the issue, potentially bypassing Christie’s decision and making the $15 wage constitutionally mandated.
At a Tuesday event at a Caldwell public school, the governor commented on the decision by legislators to move forward with a ballot question and doubled-down on his stance that the veto was the appropriate course of action. He said that because of the opposing stances, the issue will likely be a hard-fought one on both sides. According to Christie, the moves to put such measured on the ballot, however, are inappropriate.
“The Democratic legislature has such little respect for the elected process that every time they don’t get their way through the legislative process now they’re amending the constitution,” Christie said. “Those are the places where our most precious rights are protected not how much an hour you are supposed to make.”
According to the governor, the effort to boost the minimum wage comes too close to the 2013 referendum where New Jersey voters elected to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour and thereafter adjust annually to align with the rate of inflation. The Governor said that the decision by the legislature to act now was spawned by decisions in New York state and California to raise their minimum wages to $15.
“They are about to do this for the second time,” Christie said of the legislature putting a minimum wage measure on the ballot. “They said we didn’t have to do anything else because there is an inflation index in the constitution that says the minimum wage will go up every year based upon the rate of inflation. But apparently now that’s not good enough. It is not good enough because New York and California have a $15 minimum wage and God forbid liberals of New Jersey be behind the liberals in New York and California.”
Christie also said that legislative Democrats in New Jersey are conforming to the wishes of union leaders who have been spearheading the “Fight for Fifteen” movement nationwide.
The governor said that such a boost could have disastrous effects on the New Jersey economy. In addition to alleging the boosting the minimum wage would cause a spike of as much as 20 percent in areas such as food prices, according to Christie, a minimum wage bump could lead to job reduction and increased automization statewide.
“You go in and there aren’t people there. You go up to an iPad-type device and put your order in,” Christie said, using Panera Bread’s recent automization as an example. “Where is the person who used to stand there? They’re not working. I know that $8.38 an hour is better than $0 an hour.”
The governor said that the shift might also limit employment for young people in part-time jobs.
“My son, this summer, worked at an ice cream store. He is 16. Is the guy who runs the ice cream store really going to pay my son $15 an hour to scoop ice cream?,” Christie said.
If a ballot question is put forward, New Jersey voters will have final say on the $15 minimum wage. Proponents of the boost say that, because New Jersey is a high-cost state, wages need to be higher in order to meet the cost of living.