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N.J. minimum wage battle heats up as legislation advances

NJDollars030911_optBY BOB HOLT
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

New Jersey currently has a $7.25 per hour minimum wage rate, and some small businesses say it is all they can afford.

The Senate Budget committee, however, just advanced legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour last week, including cost-of-living increases each year beginning in 2014.

But owner of the Cake Boutique in Mullica Hill Alexandra Benas said, according to the South Jersey Times, “I pay my employees everything because they work so hard, but I feel like minimum wage was just raised and they are doing it again.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney argued that the working poor need help. He said, “In 2005 when we did it, everyone said the world was going to end, but it didn’t.”

Sweeney said he would take the issue to the voters if Governor Chris Christie didn’t sign the bill. He proposes a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum to $8.25 per hour in 2014.

Christie said he would consider a one-time increase, but has called the referendum idea “ridiculous.” According to nj1015.com, he said, “I will oppose amending our Constitution, that is just a stupid way to do it. Amending the Constitution is just another way of saying that you don’t want to acknowledge the fact that I play a role in all this, and the people elected me to play a role in this.”

Chron.com mentions that a positive of having a minimum wage is that workers benefit in a bad economy because of their lower wages. A negative is that laws are inconsistent across the U.S. Washington has the highest minimum wage at $8.55 per hour, while a few states do not have minimum wage laws.

Senator Jennifer Beck of Monmouth County says the move would be bad timing right now due to the recent hurricane.

"There are businesses that were literally buried under 16 feet of water, 6 feet of sand," Beck said, according to philly.com. "This is the wrong moment. We've had a tragic experience in our state which has put everyone back on their heels.”

18 states offer higher minimum wage rates than New Jersey. 10 of them give annual rate hikes based on cost of living increases, and four of those states have that written into their constitutions.

 

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