NJ Politics Digest: Dems Reach Deal on $15 Minimum Wage

Phil Murphy Offers Compromise Regarding Tax Hikes

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for William Hill Race & Sports Bar

Democratic leaders in the legislature and Gov. Phil Murphy have reached a deal to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour for most workers by 2024, advancing a key Democratic promise after a year of effort.

The agreement means those working eligible full-time jobs with vacation benefits can expect to earn a minimum of $31,000 annually.

The measure nearly doubles the state’s current minimum wage of $8.85 hour and, if adopted, would put New Jersey alongside California, New York and Massachusetts as having the highest minimum wages in the nation.

More than 1 million workers would be impacted, according to a statement by the Democratic leaders.
Under the proposal, the base minimum wage for most New Jersey workers would increase to $10 per hour on July 1 and then increase by $1 per hour every Jan. 1st until it reaches $15 per hour in 2024.

New Jersey regulations calling for inflation-adjustments to the wage would then go back into effect.
The $15 wage doesn’t apply to all workers. Farm workers will see their minimum rise to $12.50 per hour in five years, making them the highest-paid farm workers in the Northeast. The bill includes a path to raising that wage to $15 per hour by 2027.

For seasonal workers and those working at business with five workers or less, the base minimum wage would reach $15 an hour by the start of 2026 and then rise to the regular state minimum wage by 2028.

While employers will bear the first costs of the increases, it’s unclear how it will impact state taxpayers as the wage increase will put certain people beyond eligibility for public assistance, including federal programs.

While Murphy said raising the wage was intended to allow workers “to support themselves and their families,” the Democrats also said that nearly doubling the wages shouldn’t preclude some people from continuing to benefit from assistance programs.

“As the increases take effect, we must be sensitive to the impact it will have on working people who are below the ‘safety net’ and could be at risk of losing benefits as their wages increase. We don’t want to see them harmed by lost benefits as they gain in wages,” Sweeney said.

Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said the plan was another increased cost New Jersey businesses are being faced with.

“Today’s announcement is another hit to small businesses who are absorbing cumulative costs in the form of new mandates, more subsidies for energy delivery and increased taxes as a means to balance the state budget,” Siekerka said. “Most small business owners pay what they can afford for their workers. Now that it’s a mandate, it is inevitable that some of those with the smallest of profit margins will struggle, stagnate or simply fail.”

Quote of the Day: “Since the beginning of last year the Legislature has passed 169 bills, and not one addresses property taxes,” — Republican Assembly Whip Nancy Munoz in her party’s response to Gov. Phil Murphy’s State of the State message.

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NJ Politics Digest: Dems Reach Deal on $15 Minimum Wage