As of this writing, the debate is taking place in the New Jersey State Assembly to send a ballot question to voters that would make the minimum wage part of the State’s Constitution.

Once it gets passed onto the voters, you then have the choice of increasing the minimum wage to 8.25 an hour with yearly increases tied to the Consumer Price Index; or leaving it at 7.25 an hour.

A recent conditional veto signed by the Governor would have allowed the minimum wage to be increased by a dollar to be phased in over a three year period with no link to the CPI.

We’ll know whether or not this becomes a ballot question later on, but were it to be, how would you vote?

Business groups have pushed hard to stop the measure. 

John Holub, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, said the timing couldn't be worse.

"In New Jersey we're continuing to recover from the worst economic downturn in 70 years, still recovering from the destruction from Hurricane Sandy, and still have a 9.6 unemployment rate" as of December, he said. "Only in Trenton would someone believe that a solution to all of our challenges and problems is to raise the cost of labor on our employers."

Holub said very few of his members currently pay the minimum wage, but he said raising the pay of the lowest-wage workers will have a ripple effect, putting pressure on employers to raise pay for workers higher on the pay scale.

Phil Kirschner, president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, put out a statement Thursday morning urging Assembly leaders to call off the vote and consider the compromise proposal put forth by Gov. Chris Christie when he vetoed a statutory minimum wage measure last month.

Kirschner said compromise is a much better solution than changing the state constitution.

"The constitution is a foundational document, one that establishes our system of state government and secures basic rights," Kirschner said. "Amending the constitution is something that should be done only when there are foundational issues at stake — such as adding a lieutenant governor position, as we did a couple years ago."

Michael Egenton, senior vice president at the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, said a minimum wage amendment would set a bad precedent and potentially lead to other contentious issues being placed on the ballot, rather than being decided by the Legislature.

Further, he said, CPI isn’t a sufficient metric to gauge the ability of the economy to handle a minimum wage increase in any given year.

“You have to take into account economic factors, how the economy is doing, how businesses are doing, gauge their prospects of hiring people and what their bottom line is,” he said. “Those factors are taken into account when you go the legislative route.”

Sweeney, however, has argued a constitutional amendment is the only way to shield the issue from the whims of politicians.

"It is time to remove politics and politicians from this process once and for all," he said, in a statement following the Senate's passage of the resolution last week. "The people of New Jersey clearly support this issue, and I have no doubt that they will overwhelmingly approve this measure in the fall."

Sweeney noted 19 states have minimum wages higher than the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour, and 10 of those states have indexed their wages to the CPI.

If approved by voters in November, New Jersey's wage would rise to $8.25 on Jan. 1, 2014, with future annual adjustments based on the CPI. Ironically, the wage could increase even faster if President Barack Obama has his way. Obama on Tuesday called for a federal minimum wage of $9 by 2015.

I often use the analogy of the full time supermarket worker who receives a raise due to a rise in her tier; only to see her hours diminish and taken by part timers who are on the lower pay scale.

Her employers wants to keep his bottom line consistent. While she may have earned her raise due to the many years she’s been employed at the supermarket, her employer only knows one thing…and that is his bottom line.

Don’t you think the same would apply should the minimum wage were to be increased? In the short run you may theoretically gain; however in the long run you may just lose if your hours are cut, or even worse, lose the job entirely.

I use a lot of “ifs” in this scenario, but given the unemployment rate in the state being at a steady 9.6 percent; who wants to take that chance?

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