The Senate voted Thursday to approve a bill that calls for a gradual increase of New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next five years.With the Assembly having already voted to pass the measure last month, the legislation now heads to the desk of Gov. Chris Christie, who is likely to veto it.
The bill calls for an immediate hike of the current minimum wage, set at $8.38 per hour, to $10.10 per hour with annual raises after that of $1 to $1.25 per hour plus the rate of inflation until the $15 per hour threshold is met.
Business groups have fought hard against the proposal, saying the increase would present a cost burden that would fall unfairly on the backs of employers, many of whom are still adjusting to the last minimum wage increase passed through voter referendum.
In 2013, voters agreed to up the state’s then-minimum wage of $7.25 per hour by $1, to $8.25 per hour, and tie all future increases to the consumer price index.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean (R-Westfield) said the measure would lead to more jobs being lost to technology, saying that “If you walk into a Wawa today to buy a sandwich, for example, you already place your order through a kiosk.”
“It’s undeniable that increasing the minimum wage by nearly 80 percent will result in substantial job losses for people already struggling,” Kean said. “Taking away opportunities to get a foothold in the workforce will harm the same young and inexperienced people that the sponsors of this legislation are trying to help.”
The move was supported, however, by groups like New Jersey Policy Perspective, which claim that a $15 per hour minimum wage would go along away to addressing inequality in the state.
“Never in the last three decades have we gotten this close to actually doing something about the alarming problem of deep child poverty in New Jersey,”Raymond Castro, NJPP senior policy analyst, said. “It’s beyond high time for the legislature and the governor to step up and address the needs of our most vulnerable New Jerseyans.”