Our Quote of the Day today is via Steve Sweeney:
“If you live in New Jersey, you recognize that $7.25 isn’t getting it done. It’s basically keeping people in poverty.”
Coming up this afternoon in the Senate Budget Committee is a discussion of Sweeney’s plan to pass the question of raising the minimum wage to the voters as a constitutional amendment, then continuing on a schedule of raises. Christie, who’s spent a year pinning the Jersey Comeback mantle on himself (so he won’t mind if I use it), is against automatic increases in the state’s minimum wage. A constitutional amendment would be an end run around the governor.
The poll numbers behind voter support of this present a clear mandate:
76% supported increasing the hourly wage to $8.25 from $7.25, and tying the new wage to the consumer price index, which measures changes in inflation. South Jersey voters supported boosting the wage, 77% to 17%.
87% of Democrats, 62% of Republicans, and 75% of unaffiliated voters are in favor.
By the Living Wage Calculator for NJ developed by the Department of Urban Studies at MIT, we see that even an improved $8.25 figure is still significantly below what it costs a F/T worker in this state to live here. And it supports the reality some of us see in our neighbors and friends who work more than one low-wage job to get by and/or have more than one member of the household working, whether or not there are children.
New Jersey’s in the bottom group of minimum wage levels; 32 states, including ours, pay at the federal minimum rate of $7.25/hour (it’s important to note: cost of living here is among the country’s highest – and we see the poor are often charged more for similar purchases or services). All the rest pay higher and 10 have annual increases tied to changes in the cost of living, with four writing those increases into their state constitutions.
Past the overwhelming numbers, the devil’s in the details how to do better for low-income individuals and families. Speaker Sheila Oliver has proposals of her own. The Inquirer New Jersey poll showed respondents divided over how the wage should be increased and indexed to inflation.
One thing is certain: Don’t look to Gov. Christie to be of service here.