Minimum Wage & Bipartisanship

It was quite a lengthy (and sometimes lofty) debate on the minimum wage increase bill (from $7.25 to $8.50) along with its companion constitutional amendment which passed the Senate last Thursday. Minority Leader Senator Tom Kean, Jr. lamented the lack of bipartisanship on these measures. He urged “compromise” in order to gain Republican support. The “compromise” put forth by the Republicans would implement this minimum wage increase over the course of  several years, and would remove the automatic cost of living increment. (Snarky note: yesterday another automatic increase went into effect for Port Authority bridge and tunnel tolls. Ok for the PA to handle toll increases in that manner, but not good enough for low wage earners to keep up with automatic cost of living increases.)

Not one Republican supported these bills. Some used the excuse of Hurricane Sandy, but Senate President Steve Sweeney rightly pointed out that Republicans did not support these same bills prior to Hurricane Sandy.

This was an issue which clearly separated the two parties. Because of basic philosophical differences, there could be no “bipartisanship”. So after the Assembly concurs in the Senate bill, and passes the constitutional amendment companion, both go the the Governor’s desk. Do I hear veto?

If so, the constitutional amendment can be passed again in 2013, and the voters of New Jersey will be asked to approve the measures on the ballot in November of 2013. Should be interesting to watch this all unfold.

Today, the Senate Budget Committee goes to Moonachie to view the devastation to the town’s infrastructure and to hold a hearing on the needs of the Bergen County community. There’s a long road ahead as the State and local governments must meet the challenges caused by the hurricane. I would hope that local governments will be examining “smarter” rebuilding along with the State. I would also suggest that each locality must take the time to examine their own emergency procedures and what worked well, and what did not. I have read about a few towns doing this, but certainly not enough of them. Each emergency has a lesson to teach which should make the next one a bit easier to get through if local government is willing to take a good hard look at what occurred.

This will be a tough holiday season for many of our residents. It will be mostly a working time for our Legislature, as there are hearings and voting sessions scheduled through a good portion of December. I know “bipartisanship” will be necessary on the rebuilding road, and I believe we will acheive that.

However, politics will continue to capture our attention. After all, this is New Jersey. We have a Governor who is enjoying enormous popularity on the waves of Hurricane Sandy. But in the months ahead we will be talking about things like the Affordable Care Act and how we implement it in New Jersey; about tax policy and who gets a tax break or a tax increase; job growth and the economy. We are awaiting the Cory Booker decision. Will he or won’t he?

Much to talk about and blog about.

Comments (7)

  1. JackHarris

    Senator Weinberg, Thank you for your continued help and leadership on post-Sandy recovery and affordable housing.

    It appears that 40,000 people were displaced at least temporarily by the storm and we don’t know how many people have ultimately been able to return home.

    We do know that a significant number of people are living in homes that are technically uninhabitable — no utilities, flood damage, mold that hasn’t been remediated, etc. and that these numbers may be growing as FEMA’s housing allowances run out.

    Compounding these issues are the slow and negative responses by the insurance agencies. No payouts, telling homeowners it will take 6+ months for an insurance company approved engineer to come by and determine whether a home’s structure and foundation is safe or needs to be completely rebuilt.  

    Payouts on homeowners policies are coming up so short it’s a crime. $45,000 on uninhabitable primary residences that are assessed at $350k and up for example.

    Marginal populations are also at risk. When Tent City at Monmouth Park closed there were at least 100 people who had no temporary residences lined-up. Many of these people were minimum wage workers and people struggling with affordable housing before the storm.

    That’s the view from Monmouth County.

    We’d be more than personally willing to host you, if you’d like to come visit coastal Monmouth County.  

  2. Senator Loretta Weinberg (Post author)

    Senate budget committee is coming to one of the Shore towns for a more in depth hearing with DEP, and I will ask that our Insurance Commissioner be included because of these reported problems with insurance coverage. Will let you know as soon as date and place are confirmed.

  3. JCpolitico

    Do something tangible and raise the minimum wage to a living wage attached to inflation.

    Otherwise, meh.  

  4. JackHarris

    We have a person in our town who ran the catastrophic insurance underwriting program for an insurer. They have been assisting our friends and neighbors with their policies and dealing with the insurance companies.

    This person has lots of war stories from dealing with the insurance companies post-Sandy. Let me know if you would like to connect.

    P.S. We also have to look at the Fort Monmouth housing issue. :)

    Thank you for the responsiveness!  

  5. Senator Loretta Weinberg (Post author)

    does require a built in cost of living increase each year.

  6. JCpolitico

    thereby ensuring that the minimum wage will remain about 3$ less (at minimum) than a living wage in New Jersey. Living wage in NJ for a single adult is $11.

    I’m not saying this isn’t a marginal improvement, but why not force the governor to veto a living wage bill at $12 an hour and then negotiate from there?

    This is classic Sweeney. Would the Teamsters ever settle for $8.50 an hour? No chance. So why should everybody else?  

  7. William Weber (WjcW)

    the American businessperson too much credit.

    For a raise in the minimum wage to make a difference, all other prices/costs must remain constant.

    What the politicians are banking on is that the employers will look at $1.25hr from their bottom lines and opt to take it on the chin.

    That’s not the real world. Employers are greedy. They do NOT want to make less. If the minimum wage is raised they will either pass on the increased costs to their products and services, or layoff workers as necessary to keep the same employee costs and expect the remaining employess to pick up the slack.

    In other words, the minimum wage is priced into the market. All raising the wage does is cause inflationary pressure. If it didn’t, it would be a good idea to raise it to $20/hr or $30/hr…

    What these people are hoping for is that $1.25/hr is too small a change for anyone to notice, and that the wage will increase in a vacuum.

    I’d argue that for the same reasons you wouldn’t consider $20/$30 per hour as a minimum, you shouldn’t consider $8.50 either. American business people are greedy, and I think you’re mistaken if you think they won’t figure out a way to get back the $1.25/hr.


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