Democrats unveil plan for 15 minimum wage bill planned for Thursday

Andrew George//February 3, 2016

Democrats unveil plan for 15 minimum wage bill planned for Thursday

Andrew George//February 3, 2016

Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Assemblyman John Wisniewski announced Wednesday that they plan to introduce a bill that would raise New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 per hour.“As we continue to review other proposals as part of our new anti-poverty initiative, this will be an integral component in our efforts to stop the decline in the middle class and lift working families out of poverty,” said Prieto (D-Secaucus). “In order to do that, our first step must be to ensure that all workers are paid fairly for their labor.

“The constitutional minimum wage that we established a few years ago set a floor, not a ceiling. While that was the best and most feasible thing we could do at the time, we now need to strive for better to reverse the poverty trend in this state.”

The state’s current minimum wage, which was tied to the consumer price index through a passed voter referendum in 2013, is $8.38 per hour.

“With middle class families in decline and the ranks of low-income families growing, it’s time New Jersey took bold action to stop the backsliding and rebuild an economy that works for everyone,” said Wisniewski (D-Sayreville). “It’s not that long ago when American families could live on the earnings of one worker. Today, middle class families with two incomes are struggling to provide for their family.

“Anyone working hard at a full-time job should, at the least, be able to provide their family with the basics — a roof over their family’s head, food on the table and clothes on their back. Is that too much to expect?”

Democrats plan to introduce the measure Thursday. Even if passed by the Legislature, Gov. Chris Christie would be unlikely to sign it.

New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Michael Egenton said that such a drastic increase from the current rate “would have a huge effect” on the business community.

Egenton added that, back in 2013, opponents to the minimum wage referendum warned supporters that by embedding a mandated CPI-tied increase into the state constitution, it would set a dangerous precedent that allowed for “no flexibility” on future discussions.

“This is exactly the argument we made about why the constitution shouldn’t be a vehicle for the pension issue, the minimum wage or anything else,” Egenton said.

New Jersey Policy Perspective’s Jon Whiten didn’t see it that way.

“New Jerseyans who work hard every day shouldn’t have to live in poverty,” said Whiten. “All hard-working men and women should be paid enough to be able to put food on the table, a roof over their heads and clothes on their back. Yet this is not possible for many low-wage workers in the Garden State. We applaud Speaker Prieto and Assemblyman Wisniewski for taking this important step forward for these working families.”