Today, the New Jersey Senate passed a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour and would include a cost of living adjustment. The bill, which has already passed in the General Assembly, goes back to the Assembly on Monday to match the language of the Senate bill. It will then go to Governor Christie’s desk for signature.
I have no doubt that the Governor will veto the bill – not necessarily because he doesn’t think New Jerseyans deserve a decent wage, but because he is loath to alienate his big business corporate contributors to his presidential campaign.
While there was two hours of repetitive debate on the bill, a companion resolution, to amend the state Constitution, was passed without debate. With an anticipated veto by the governor of the original bill, the amendment will require passage in two consecutive years, and would then be put on the ballot in the November 2013 election. So relief to people earning poverty-level wages would not come until early 2014.
During the debate on the original bill, the Democrats argued that given New Jersey’s high cost of living, keeping the minimum wage at its current level only sustains poverty. Without an automatic cost of living adjustment the extreme difficulty, a large number of our fellow citizens will continue to struggle. The incremental dollars that go to minimum wage workers would be spent in New Jersey on essentials, and would stimulate small business.
The Republicans disingenuously harped on the impact of Hurricane Sandy. Rebuilding will require huge sums of money, and now is not the time to raise the minimum wage, they contend. Yet, Senator Paul Sarlo and others pointed out that the GOP would vote against a Cost of Living adjustment even if there had been no storm.
So who were the winners and losers in today’s debate?