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Steve Sweeney Wants Voters To Decide Minimum Wage Hike [POLL/AUDIO]

Not quite sure if he can count on Governor Chris Christie’s support for an increase in the state’s minimum wage, State Senate President Steve Sweeney is ready to attempt an end-around that would take Christie completely out of the mix.

Steve Sweeney and Chris Christie
Steve Sweeney and Chris Christie (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

Sweeney says today he’ll introduce a measure to ask the voters if they want to hike the minimum wage.

Sweeney wants a question on the November 2013 ballot asking voters if they’d like to increase the minimum wage by one dollar to $8.25 an hour and then tie future hikes to the Consumer Price Index. If the question is approved the one buck increase would go into effect in 2014.

Sweeney says, “It improves productivity and it gets a better worker. We have to help our people who are working on the lower end of the economy. You can pick one measurement to pair it (the annual wage adjustment) to so that you don’t fall so far behind and then you do this big increase where the business community says they can’t afford it.”

Earlier this year when he was asked about his thoughts on increasing the minimum wage, Christie said, “What I can guarantee you is; that nothing will be done unless I’m a player at the table to discuss it…..We’ve seen this before. When they (Democrats) operate on their own things get vetoed so they should come and talk to me about it.”

A Governor can use the bully pulpit to try and convince voters to reject a ballot question, but a Governor cannot veto a voter-approved ballot question.

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.

New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver has since had her team tracking U.S. Labor Department numbers to see how increasing the minimum wage has worked out for other states this year. Armed with the latest statistics, Oliver believes she now has proof that hiking the minimum wage is not the job killer opponents say it is.

The numbers reveal that of the eight states that increased their minimum wage, only one state has seen an increase in its unemployment rate from the time the wage hike kicked in through July, the last month for which jobless rates are available.

Oliver, who sponsored a minimum wage hike bill this year says, “Raising the minimum wage acts as an economic stimulus. There’s no doubt about it…….We cannot buy into the old argument that this is a job killer. It is not a job killer.”

In December, 2011 Washington State’s minimum wage was $8.67 an hour (increased to $9.04 in January, 2012), Oregon’s minimum wage was $8.50 an hour (increased to $8.80), Vermont’s minimum wage was $8.15 an hour (increased to $8.46), Ohio’s minimum wage was $7.40 an hour (increased to $7.70), Arizona’s minimum wage was $7.35 an hour (increased to $7.65), Montana’s minimum wage was $7.35 an hour (increased to $7.65), Colorado’s minimum wage was $7.36 an hour (increased to $7.64) and Florida’s minimum wage was $7.31 an hour (increased to $7.67).

The statistics show that only Colorado’s unemployment rate went from where it stood in December 2011 (7.9%) to where it is now (8.3%). The other state’s jobless rates fell over that time. Washington went from 8.6% in December, 2011 to 8.5% now. Oregon went from 9% to 8.7%. Vermont went from 5.2% to 5%. Ohio went from 7.9% to 7.2%. Arizona went from 9% to 8.3%. Montana went from 6.6% to 6.4% and Florida went from 9.9% to 8.8%.

 

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