A proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour advanced in the New Jersey Assembly on Thursday, when it passed by a 6-2 vote. Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) sponsored the bill.
The Assembly Labor Committee cleared the bill from Democrats, who have called the bill a priority and hope to make it law by July 1. Though it has not yet received a hearing in the Senate, the bill will require future adjustments based on the Consumer Price index.
Gov. Chris Christie said he has not yet made up his mind about the bill but is willing to consider the implications of raising the minimum wage in New Jersey. If the law is passed, New Jersey would go from having one of the lowest state minimum wages to one of the highest.
CBS News.com reported Oliver phoned the governor on Thursday morning, pledging to work with Republicans and Democrats to get the measure signed into law.
Deborah Howlett of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a Trenton-based liberal think tank, endorsed the increase. “The increase may be only $1.25 an hour but it could mean the difference in families paying a utility bill in full or buying new school clothes for their children,” she said in an article that appeared in Newsroom New Jersey on Thursday.
Opponents of the bill, however, say the proposed increase would not necessarily benefit minimum wage workers. In the CBS News.com report, a New Jersey business owner who spoke at the hearing said raising the minimum wage would mean he would have to pay higher payroll taxes, forcing him to let some go of some of his employees.
"I don't want to keep anyone down," said Joe Olivio, whose family-owned Perfect Printing is based in Moorestown. "Sometimes you can hurt the very employees you're trying to help." He added that it's easy to demonize people like him who oppose increasing the minimum wage.
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association echoed Olivio’s stance, saying small-business owners can't absorb a 17 percent increase in the minimum wage in the current economy.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia currently have higher minimum wages than New Jersey.