Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have looked to gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next five years.Christie, speaking Tuesday inside the Pennington Quality Market, called the bill a job-killer and a “complete pander to folks who are uninformed because they neither receive the minimum wage nor pay it.”
The measure, put forth by Democrats in the Legislature, called for an increase in New Jersey’s minimum wage, currently set at $8.38 per hour to $10.10 per hour, and would have included subsequent hikes of $1 to $1.25 per hour plus the rate of inflation until the $15 per hour cap was met.
Democrats have already indicated that they plan on taking the issue to next year’s ballot in the form of a voter referendum.
“We have to fight this fight now,” Christie said. “Between now and next November.”
The method has already proven successful for advocates of hiking the minimum wage. In 2013, voters agreed to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour and tie all future increases to the consumer price index.
Business owners and not the Legislature, Christie said, should be deciding how to best compensate their workers.
Using the Pennington-based grocery store as his backdrop, Christie said that such a drastic increase in the minimum wage would lead to diminished services and higher prices for goods.
“These are not the kinds of things we want happening in our state,” Christie said.
Christie also pointed to examples of automated self-serve kiosks in chain establishments like Panera Bread and Wawa Inc., saying they are replacing workers as business costs rise.
“That’s the way of the future if we continue to do this type of radical increase in the minimum wage,” Christie said.
In having the event at his store, Pennington Quality Market store owner Mike Rothwell said that he felt it was “time to speak up” on the issue.
“I am proud to serve as a voice for the small guy,” Rothwell said.
Christie’s decision was criticized, however, by New Jersey Policy Perspective vice president Jon Whiten, who said the bill offered “a sensible, steady way to give working families across the state a better shot at success.”
“The governor has failed to take advantage of a great opportunity to give nearly 1 million New Jersey workers a raise, reduce inequality and help the state’s economy,” Whiten said. “Instead, he has decided to allow employers to continue paying 975,000 New Jerseyans so little that they can’t survive on their wages alone in this high-cost state. These workers and their families must continue to rely on the publicly-funded safety net and the charity of the private nonprofit sector just to put food on the table, clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads.”