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(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats to increase New Jersey's hourly minimum wage to $8.50 and require the rate to then be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index received final legislative approval on Monday by a vote of 44-31-1.
The Assembly initially voted to approve the bill in May. The Senate approved it on Thursday. The Assembly had to reconsider it because of amendments that moved the effective date to March 1, 2013 and the start of the CPI indexing to Jan. 1, 2014.
With final legislative approval in hand, the bill now goes to the governor.
Under this legislation, and based on projected trends in the CPI by nonpartisan legislative staff, the minimum wage would rise to $9.49 in 2017:
The bill is sponsored by Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic), Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex), Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Camden), Speaker Pro Tem Jerry Green (D-Union/Middlesex/Somerset), Majority Conference Leader Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen), Budget Chairman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson/Bergen) and Deputy Speaker John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex).
Oliver during the Assembly reorganization ceremony in January announced increasing the minimum wage - which is now $7.25 per hour - would be a Democratic priority this legislative session.
The bill (A-2162) specifically increases New Jersey's hourly minimum wage rate to $8.50 on and then requires it be adjusted annually based on any increase in the Consumer Price Index, with the adjustment taking effect on July 1 of each year.
"This is great progress for hard-working New Jersey families struggling to make ends meet," said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). "Democrats are united in their belief in a living wage for all New Jerseyan, and we will now see if the governor shares our core belief. Hopefully, the governor will sign this bill as-is, but if he does not, then we'll quickly take stock and weigh our next step, including asking the people of New Jersey to decide this important matter."
"Boosting the minimum wage has wide reaching positive economic benefits, acting as an economic stimulus," Spencer said. "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."
"Having a minimum wage that accurately reflects the state's economic realities is common sense, but also an essential economic development tool that will have an immediate positive effect on our economy," Greenwald said. "Traditionally, New Jersey has been a leader in providing economic security for its lower-income working families by ensuring that the state mandates a fair minimum wage. The time to raise the state's minimum wage is now."
"With the worst recession in a generation still being felt across the nation, Democrats are focused on getting New Jersey's economy going again while helping working families make ends meet," Green said. "Raising the minimum wage should be a key part of an economic recovery agenda. It's also a must for many families struggling to get by in these difficult times."
"By boosting pay in the low-wage jobs on which more families are relying than ever, a stronger minimum wage will help restore the consumer spending that powers our economy and that local businesses need in order to grow," Johnson said. "A robust minimum wage is a key building block of sustainable economic recovery. It's long past time to provide this basic fairness."
"The minimum wage is becoming more and more important for our economy, since more workers are spending more time in low-wage jobs," Prieto said. "As a result, more families are relying on low-wage and minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. Raising the minimum wage promotes economic growth by putting money in the pockets of working families."
"About 1.4 million low-income workers across the country started the new year with a minimum-wage increase, but not in New Jersey," Wisniewski said. "Minimum wage increases stimulate the economy by increasing consumer spending, without adding to state and federal budget deficits. Consumer spending drives 70 percent of the economy, and increasing that ability to spend is key to jumpstarting production and re-hiring."
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"Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Hudson County Democrat, is balking. He claimed Tuesday that members of his caucus are divided over the measure and that his house is in no real rush – besides, even if enacted this year, the reforms would not take effect until 2017, he said. And with the growing belief that Christie could skip town to run for president, some Democrats are not eager to give him another talking point for his résumé. Christie’s plans to stump for Republican candidates in New Hampshire later Thursday only fuel that suspicion." - columnist Charles Stile- The Bergen Record
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