NJ Big Wigs Huddle On Minimum Wage Strategy [AUDIO]
In a closed-door meeting, Democratic leaders and the heads of dozens of labor and citizen advocacy groups have devised a strategy for increasing New Jersey's minimum wage.
In November, voters will be asked if they'd like to amend the State constitution to hike the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.25 immediately and tie annual increases to the rate of inflation. Those involved in yesterday's private get together say it's all about raising awareness.
"What we are fearful of in New Jersey is that we will see the outside of influence of a lot of special interest money being used to give a spin on the implications of the minimum wage," explains Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. "We want to counter that."
In January, Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed a bill which would have increased the state's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 and would've tied future increases to the rate of inflation every year.
Christie's conditional veto sought to reduce the size of the minimum wage increase by $0.25 to $8.25 per hour, introduce a 3-year phase-in, and eliminate altogether the provision for annual cost of living adjustments in future years.
The Democrat-controlled legislature rejected Christie's idea and instead approved a measure to ask voters to decide the issue in November.
"Consumer and workers are not having their wages keep pace with what it costs to live in New Jersey," insists Oliver. "If minimum wage earners get this raise they will immediately spend that money at the local drug store, the local supermarket, the local restaurant and I think everyone benefits economically."
Independent Business Group Disagrees
A new survey released by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) shows that small business owners in New Jersey lopsidedly oppose the Constitutional Amendment raising the minimum wage by 14 percent next year and every year thereafter based on inflation.
"It's one of the most one-sided results that I've ever seen in a survey and it should send a message to voters who care about small business," says NFIB New Jersey Director Laurie Ehlbeck. "Raising the cost of labor on small businesses regardless of whether they are doing well and regardless of the economic conditions is a very bad idea."
Christie's Veto Message
"In these difficult times those most impacted by challenging economic conditions - our state's working families - need assistance," said Christie, when he announced his conditional veto. "Instead of the lopsided approach taken by the Legislature, this plan delivers a responsible, balanced approach that increases the minimum wage by one dollar over a phase-in period of three years, while helping our working families with direct relief through an increase in our state's Earned Income Tax Credit."