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NJ Senate Expected To Pass Minimum Wage Hike Measures Today [AUDIO]

Today, the full State Senate is expected to get the ball rolling on a two-pronged attack to increase New Jersey’s minimum wage and have it adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Governor Chris Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Speaker Sheila Oliver
Governor Chris Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Speaker Sheila Oliver (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

The Upper House is expected to pass a bill to hike the wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50. To guard against a veto by Governor Chris Christie, the Senate is also expected approve a resolution that would ask the voters next year if they’d like to amend the constitution to enact the increase with the adjustments.

Yesterday, Christie said, “No one has ever negotiated with me on the minimum wage and I’ve been begging to be negotiated with for months…….I’ve continued to say on the minimum wage that I’m willing to consider a responsible minimum wage package, but let’s be clear on this now; we’ve got thousands businesses wiped (by super-storm Sandy) and is this really now the moment to say to those folks we’re going to hit you with a $1.25 increase on March 1 and a CPI beyond that?”

Asked about the Governor’s contention that no one has negotiated with him on the minimum wage, State Senate President Steve Sweeney says, “That’s not true. The Governor was very clear in his position with me. He said there’s no way he’s going to sign a bill with a CPI. I respect that. He says that’s a principled position for him. I can’t be mad at him for that except that it’s a principled position for me to have the CPI.”

Sweeney says, “We will put a bill on the Governor’s desk that he has the option of signing. If he strips the CPI from it, we will move forward with a constitutional amendment….It’s either going to be implemented by the Governor or it will be implemented by the people of this state.”

In September, Christie was asked about the constitutional amendment approach. He said, “That is just a stupid way to do it……That’s not what the Constitution is there for. They control the Legislature. They want to raise the minimum wage, send me a bill and see what I’ll do with it.”

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver has been a longtime advocate for increasing the minimum wage.

She says, “A strong majority of New Jerseyans support a living wage for working class families because they know a higher minimum wage can significantly improve the lives of workers and their families, without the adverse effects that critics have claimed. It’s the right thing to do. That’s why I made it a top commitment earlier this year and it’s why I continue to want to see the Assembly-approved bill sent to the Governor so we can see what he decides and determine the next step. A robust minimum wage is a key building block of sustainable economic recovery. It’s long past time to provide this basic fairness, so it’s time to move the bill.”

“Rigid automatic increases in the minimum wage will make it almost impossible for the state to respond flexibly to future economic conditions,” says New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA) President Phil Kirschner. “Raising the minimum wage 14 percent in a weak economy is a bad idea that ignores the fact that most businesses sales are up only 2 percent and employers do not have more revenue to pay for state-mandated raises. Enshrining a wage increase and automatic annual increases in a constitutional amendment is a very bad idea.”

A bill to hike New Jersey’s 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 stalled in the State Senate.

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