Oliver, Eustace & Spencer Laud NJ Minimum Wage Increase Approved by Voters in Tuesday’s General Election

(TRENTON) – Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, Assemblyman Tim Eustace and Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer hailed the approval of a referendum by New Jersey voters that will increase the state’s minimum hourly wage to $8.25 per hour with annual adjustments for inflation.
Oliver, Eustace and Spencer sponsored the resolution to put the question directly before the voters on Election Day, after the governor vetoed separate legislation that would have increased the minimum wage to $8.50. The resolution was one of several legislative measures being pushed by Democrats in the Assembly to spur job creation and jumpstart economic recovery in the state.
The new minimum wage rate kicks in January 1, 2014.
“New Jerseyans have spoken. After eight years, working families will finally get a deserved financial boost. No one should have to decide whether to buy food or pay a bill, but that has been the reality for many as they struggled to stretch their earnings against ever increasing cost of living expenses,” said Oliver (D-Essex/Passaic). “This wage increase will help put more money in people’s pockets that can be spent locally on basic essentials like food, clothing and transportation expenses.”
“This is a win for the thousands of working families who for too long have struggled to make ends meet in one of the costliest states in the country,” said Eustace (D-Bergen). “I applaud the voters who understood not just the financial benefit of raising the minimum wage to low-wage earners, but the benefits to the economy. An additional dollar may not seem like much to some, but I’m certain these families will welcome the extra money and the future cost of living increases.”
“The minimum wage in New Jersey has been stagnant for years until now, thanks to voters who realized that what low-wage workers were earning was terribly disproportionate to the cost of living in New Jersey,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “This is a victory for all those low-income working families who will now have a little more to expend on basic household needs like groceries and child care, and a win for businesses that will enjoy the trickle-down effect of this increased spending.”
The constitutional amendment approved by voters sets the minimum wage at $8.25 per hour, and provides annual cost of living increases based on increases in the consumer price index. The cost of living increases will be added to the initial rate and any subsequent increases in the minimum wage made by law. Also, if the federal minimum wage is raised above the state rate, the state rate would be raised to match the federal rate. Future cost of living increases would then be added to that rate.
Raising the minimum wage to $8.25 gives New Jersey one of the highest minimum wages in the country (Washington, Oregon and Vermont have minimum wages greater than $8.25; Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada and the District of Columbia set $8.25 as their minimum), which is commensurate with the high cost of living in this state. The annual income for a full-time employee working the entire year at the current minimum wage is $15,080; raising the minimum wage will raise that figure to $17,160. A weekly paycheck will go from $290 to $330, a difference of $40.
New Jersey has been a leader in providing economic security for its lower-income working families by ensuring a fair minimum wage. In 1992, New Jersey increased the minimum wage to $5.05, then the highest in the nation, at a time when the federal minimum wage was set at $4.25. In 1997, the federal government raised the national minimum wage from $4.75 to $5.15.
In 1999, the Republicans in control of the state government adopted a law requiring that the state minimum wage not exceed the federal level — which at the time was the current $5.15 — or go below it. In 2006, Democrats raised the state minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.15, and then raised it again to $7.15 in 2007. Before today’s vote, the state minimum wage was last raised in 2009, when it was automatically raised to $7.25 in order to match the newly-implemented federal minimum wage.