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Raising the minimum wage in N.J. makes sense

NJDollars030911_optBY JON WHITEN
COMMENTARY

While legislative leaders’ efforts to raise New Jersey’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour have taken a backseat in recent weeks to the governor’s proposed income tax cut, similar legislation in New York is gaining the backing of some high-profile business advocates.

First up was a Daily News op-ed co-authored by New York City’s billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg that used free-market ideology to argue for bolstering the minimum wage.

“[The minimum wage] helps taxpayers by reducing the number of people who might otherwise have to rely on public assistance to survive,” Bloomberg and state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver wrote. “Taxpayers benefit when government dependency is low – and so does the economy.”

The Daily News piece was followed a few days later by an editorial in business bible Crain’s that called for the minimum wage to be raised to $8.50 an hour and tied to inflation going forward. Crain’s said opponents’ arguments that a wage increase will destroy low-paid jobs just aren’t true; it pointed to New York’s 2004 raising of the wage as an example.

“If the change had a cataclysmic effect on businesses that depend heavily on minimum-wage workers, we certainly missed it,” the paper wrote. “Neither, quite obviously, did it shower undeserved riches on the bottom rung of workers.”

If and when the minimum wage bill here in New Jersey starts to pick up steam again, we can only hope some of the state’s leading voices for business will, like Bloomberg and Crain’s, avoid a knee-jerk dismissal of the proposal, and look instead at how it will help our entire economy to flourish.

Jon Whiten is the Communications and Technology Director at NJPP.

 

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