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NJ Democrats Strike Deal On Minimum Wage Increase Strategy [AUDIO]

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver and State Senate President Steve Sweeney have reached an agreement on a two-pronged strategy to increase New Jersey’s minimum wage and have it adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Senate President Steve Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, and Governor Chris Christie
Governor’s Office

They plan to put a bill on Governor Chris Christie’s desk, but if he vetoes it, Oliver and Sweeney have a back-up plan.

“Before the end of December it will be done in both houses and on the Governor’s desk,” explains Sweeney. “We will put a bill on the Governor’s desk that he has the option of signing. If he strips the CPI from it we will move forward with a constitutional amendment….It’s either going to be implemented by the Governor or it will be implemented by the people of this state.”

It takes a 60% majority to put a question on next year’s ballot. Sweeney doesn’t anticipate getting 60% so, voters wouldn’t get to decide the issue until November of 2014.

Sweeney says, “The Governor’s got an option. He can do it the right way, but if he chooses not to do the right thing we’ll give the people of the State of New Jersey the opportunity to make that decision……One way or another we get what we’re looking to accomplish which is, a minimum wage increase with the CPI.”

In September, Christie was asked about the constitutional amendment approach.

He said, “That is just a stupid way to do it……That’s not what the Constitution is there for. They control the Legislature. They want to raise the minimum wage, send me a bill and see what I’ll do with it.”

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver has been a longtime advocate for increasing the minimum wage.

She says, “A strong majority of New Jerseyans support a living wage for working class families because they know a higher minimum wage can significantly improve the lives of workers and their families, without the adverse effects that critics have claimed. It’s the right thing to do. That’s why I made it a top commitment earlier this year and 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. A robust minimum wage is a key building block of sustainable economic recovery. It’s long past time to provide this basic fairness, so it’s time to move the bill.”

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“Rigid automatic increases in the minimum wage will make it almost impossible for the state to respond flexibly to future economic conditions,” says New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA) President Phil Kirschner. “Raising the minimum wage 14 percent in a weak economy is a bad idea that ignores the fact that most businesses sales are up only 2 percent and employers do not have more revenue to pay for state-mandated raises. Enshrining a wage increase and automatic annual increases in a constitutional amendment is a very bad idea.”

A bill to hike New Jersey’s minimum wage to from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 and require the rate to then be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index was approved in May by the full Assembly. The bill stalled in the State Senate.

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