Minimum Wage Increase Could Go to Voters

The state Senate approved a 2013 referendum raising the minimum wage and tying it to yearly increases. Now voters could get a say.

A proposal to raise the state's minimum wage could bypass Gov. Chris Christie and go directly to voters.

During Monday's state Senate hearings, Senate President Steve Sweeney, who lives in West Deptford, received preliminary support in calling for a Constitutional amendment allowing for an increased minimum wage. The measure would also tie future annual increases to national economic data. The initiative would be placed on the 2013 ballot for voter approval.

Sweeney's proposal, which was approved by committee 7-6, would effectively remove Christie from the approval process. Christie had previously indicated he would not sign a bill that included automatic indexed adjustments, according to a report on NJ.com.

“For years, New Jersey has assigned a dollar amount to the minimum wage that is woefully inadequate,” Sweeney said in a press release. “In fact, it is a complete failure. According to a 2011 analysis by the Office of Legislative Services, among the 307,000 workers in New Jersey who earned among the lowest hourly wages, nearly half worked full-time and one-quarter were parents. Imagine trying to feed a family, pay the rent and keep gas in the car on less than $16,000 a year.”

Voters would have to decide if they would want to raise the state's minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $8.25 per hour and allow future annual increases to be tied to national economic data, called indexing.

The minimum wage in New Jersey has been the same as the federal minimum and 23 other states since 2010. A minimum wage earner who works 40 hours grosses $290 per week, according to a report by CBS. State Senate Democrats have estimated that if the wage had been indexed annually since the state began statutorily setting the rate in 1968, New Jersey’s minimum wage today would be $9.20.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver introduced a bill in May that would raise the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour and include annual adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index. While her bill was approved in May by the full Assembly, it has not gone before the Senate for a vote.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Oliver told Businessweek of a higher minimum wage. “It’s why I continue to want to see the Assembly-approved bill sent to the governor so we can see what he decides and determine the next step.”

Currently Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Missouri, Montana, Vermont and Washington all have their minimum wages increased tied to the national economic data.

A Philadelphia Inquirer poll of 604 likely voters revealed that 76 percent of respondents supported raising the minimum wage, but were split over approving the change through legislation or a constitutional amendment.

Sweeney's proposal requires legislative approval to get the question on the ballot and voter approval at the polls. It will next go before the full Senate for further discussion.

Do you support voters, not the governor, deciding New Jersey's minimum wage levels? Tell us in the comments.

Wayne Klotz October 16, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Good job on helping people who donot make that much, senator Sweeney! I do think that the voters ought to deceided on this wage increase! Governed Christie, wake up and smell the coffee !!!
Occupant October 16, 2012 at 07:32 PM
What you fail to understand Wayne is that the minimum wage was designed for entry level jobs. (i.e. your first job) The purpose being to better yourself through job training and education in order to enable you to move up in the world and get a better paying job. Minimum wage was not designed never will be enough to live on and raise a family. For Sweeney to try to raise it will mean either layoffs or no hires.
dave pinto October 16, 2012 at 09:49 PM
In this economic crisis we're in I would have to lay some people off or raise prices to the consumer.it's a no brainer right now is not the time to raise the wage. besides my landscapers would love that can buy a lot of tacos
fre October 16, 2012 at 11:00 PM
This is a completely political issue and does nothing but decrease the number of low level jobs-causing unemployment to increase, especially for teenagers who need that first job to get experience. Less than 3% of NJ residents who earn min wage are head of household-so we're talking about creating an artificial floor for unskilled labor. This is a political carrot for people who not only slept during their Econ 101 class, but are hell-bent on creating more policy that has been proven time and again to kill job growth. You cannot artificially raise min wage above what the market will bear!
al henry October 17, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Well said fre...Political move. Nothing more as next year he will run for governor.
Wayne Klotz October 17, 2012 at 04:21 PM
I guess you are right al occupant; this will help the young learn the meaning of working for a living! Or is that to much for you and your friends to understand?!
Occupant October 17, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Wayne Klotz October 17, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Loss of words?
al henry October 17, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Wayne...Have you ever owned a small business? Did you ever need entry level or summer help? Small business has to keep costs down to remain in business and to stay competitve. Im surprised,...you being West Deptford's "Wizard of Wisdom" did not know this. I think your just looking to get a raise.... From now on you shall be called "WOW".
al henry October 17, 2012 at 06:36 PM
For a second I forgot to whom I was responding...the guy that cant manage his own WATER BILL!
redneckwillie3 October 17, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Wayne how does it feel to be the village idiot. some of the remarks you make are outlandish,maybe it's the alcohol effecting your 1 brain cell.don't forget Wayne you come into my business and I have several young adults working for me.Now if they raise the minimum wage I have no recourse but to let at least 1 go.but right now my employees are happy and I get to keep all. Since your for it,the one I let go I"m sure he or she will be disappointed and you would be one to blame.
Wayne Klotz October 18, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Occupant,al and gang; this is getting so old I have cobwebs on my screen very time you bring up the water bill! I guess you cronies cannot stick to the issues again! I guess you GENIOUS donot want the young to make it in the working world! What about that, Willie and gang!!!


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