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NJ Assembly Speaker Says Minimum Wage Hike Is Not A Job Killer [AUDIO]

New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver has had her team tracking U.S. Labor Department numbers to see how increasing the minimum wage has worked out for other states this year.

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Armed with the latest statistics, Oliver believes she now has proof that hiking the minimum wage is not the job killer opponents say it is.

The numbers reveal that of the eight states that increased their minimum wage, only one state has seen an increase in its unemployment rate from the time the wage hike kicked in through July, the last month for which jobless rates are available.

Oliver, who sponsored a minimum wage hike bill this year says, “Raising the minimum wage acts as an economic stimulus. There’s no doubt about it…….We cannot buy into the old argument that this is a job killer. It is not a job killer.”

In December, 2011 Washington State’s minimum wage was $8.67 an hour (increased to $9.04 in January, 2012), Oregon’s minimum wage was $8.50 an hour (increased to $8.80), Vermont’s minimum wage was $8.15 an hour (increased to $8.46), Ohio’s minimum wage was $7.40 an hour (increased to $7.70), Arizona’s minimum wage was $7.35 an hour (increased to $7.65), Montana’s minimum wage was $7.35 an hour (increased to $7.65), Colorado’s minimum wage was $7.36 an hour (increased to $7.64) and Florida’s minimum wage was $7.31 an hour (increased to $7.67).

The statistics show that only Colorado’s unemployment rate went from where it stood in December 2011 (7.9%) to where it is now (8.3%). The other state’s jobless rates fell over that time. Washington went from 8.6% in December, 2011 to 8.5% now. Oregon went from 9% to 8.7%. Vermont went from 5.2% to 5%. Ohio went from 7.9% to 7.2%. Arizona went from 9% to 8.3%. Montana went from 6.6% to 6.4% and Florida went from 9.9% to 8.8%.

“These are all states with a lower cost of living than New Jersey,” says Oliver. “If it is working that well in states with lower costs of living surely this would be a boost to our economy in New Jersey…..I believe that if we elevate the minimum wage in New Jersey we would see that same type of impact and implication.”

A bill to hike New Jersey’s hourly minimum wage to from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 and require the rate to then be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index was approved in May by the full Assembly. The bill measure would have boosted the minimum wage as of July 1. The minimum wage would have then been adjusted annually based on any increase in the Consumer Price Index, with the adjustment taking effect on July 1 of each year.

In May, Stefanie Riehl, vice president with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association said her organization opposed the bill, “Especially now with the economy being what it is businesses have a set amount of money for payroll and if you have a forced wage hike it’s not as if they can just go and increase their sales, increase their revenues to make up for their labor costs.”

Assemblywoman Grace Spencer co-sponsored the measure.

After it passed the Assembly she said, “Boosting the minimum wage has wide reaching positive economic benefits, acting as an economic stimulus. As five Nobel Laureates and six past presidents of the American Economic Association stated in joining hundreds of other economists in calling for raising the minimum wage, a higher minimum wage can significantly improve the lives of low-income workers and their families, without the adverse effects that critics have claimed. It’s the right thing to do.”

In the end it didn’t really matter. Governor Chris Christie wasn’t fully supportive of the bill in its form when it passed the Assembly. For that reason it was never posted for a vote in the full Senate.

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