(TRENTON) — Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee Chairman John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex) issued a multimedia package Thursday of their testimony before the Assembly Labor Committee in favor of legislation that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
New Jersey’s current minimum wage is only a little over a dollar above the federal floor for wages in one of the highest cost states in the country. The take home pay for a full time minimum wage worker is less than $18,000 a year.
According to a report from the United Way of Northern New Jersey, a single New Jerseyan with no children would need to earn $13.78 just to make basic needs like food and shelter.
Prieto and Wisniewski’s legislation (A-15) would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 on Jan. 1, 2017. From Jan. 1, 2018 until 2021, it would be increased annually by $1.25 per hour or $1 per hour, plus any increase in the Consumer Price Index. After 2021 the wage would be increased by any upward change in the CPI. If the federal minimum wage is raised higher than the state, then the state minimum wage would be set to the federal standard and increases to the CPI would be applied to the federal wage rate.
The multimedia package consists of Speaker Prieto and Assemblyman Wisniewski’s testimony in support of the minimum wage increase legislation and audio and a transcript of same.
The audio file is available upon request.
A transcript of the Assembly members’ testimony is appended below:
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson):
“Good morning, chairman. Good morning, committee. And thank you, chairman, for posting this bill.
“I think it’s an important bill that working families have been waiting for a long time to make a livable wage for how expensive our state is. Even though we did some reforms a few years back and we did an amendment, a constitutional amendment, we set a floor, not a ceiling. And hopefully this is something we can get to get accomplished and it will help a lot of working families in the State of New Jersey. As the middle class has eroded, we need to put some money in these people’s pockets.
“It will also help employers be able to have a phase in period, you know, until 2021. And, by that time, in 2021, this will affect one in every four residents in the State of New Jersey. And, sometimes we think of minimum wage as it’s for kids and it’s not. It affects, you know 91 percent of people over 20 years old and 44 percent of people over 40 years old. And a lot of people depend on these jobs to put, you know, a roof over their head, food on the table and clothes on their back.
“So, it should be a livable wage when, in the State of New Jersey, has such a high cost. And it’s a great state but, and we’re all as with all of you striving to make it a better state and a better quality of life for everybody. And when you have about 400,000 children that it would affect one of their parents, this is monumental to make sure that this is something that we can get accomplished.
“And we have to follow suit. Recently, in the last few weeks, California and New York City has followed suit. We can’t lag behind. So, we need to move the bar to somewhere that it’s a fair, livable wage for our residents. And it’s important for us to be able to put money in the pocket of people that normally put it back into our economy. So, it’ll be a good thing for everybody.
“Again, I don’t like to belabor. Thank you so much for this bill. You know, I think it’s great. Thank you.”
Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski (D-Middlesex), Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee Chair:
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to speak on this legislation.
“I’m happy to partner with our speaker to be co-prime on an important piece of legislation, which will ultimately result in raising the minimum wage to a living wage. I’m sure the speaker has covered many of the important issues as to why we need to do this, but let me just tell you my own perspective.
“We have seen, far too many times, men and women who work very hard all week long at the minimum wage and can’t earn enough to put a roof over their head or put food on the table without coming back to the state and asking for assistance.
“That’s an economic situation that is a failure. And it costs us all money.
“An increase in the minimum wage will enable those people to wean themselves off that dependency. It will save us money in the long-run. It will make the economy stronger and it will help all of us.
“And so, for that and all of the reasons that the speaker has said, which I would like to associate myself with, I would urge the committee members to favorably release this legislation so the full house can consider it.”