Legislative Leaders Call for Initial Increase To $10.10, With Annual Steps To $15 Over 5 Years; Vow to Pass Constitutional Amendment if Governor Vetoes Legislation
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Senate President Steve Sweeney on Friday announced that they would sponsor legislation raising the minimum wage to $10.10, with annual increases to push the hourly minimum to at least $15 over five years.
The top legislative leaders vowed to pass legislation to increase the wage by one dollar plus the rate of inflation each year following the initial increase until the minimum tops $15. If the Governor refuses to sign the legislation, Senate President Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Prieto said they would go to the voters with a proposed constitutional amendment to enact the same plan.
“I’m pleased we’ve been able to reach an agreement on how to move forward on this issue because this will be one of the most critical things we do this year,” Prieto said. “We’ve all seen the statistics. Our poverty rate is the highest it’s been in decades, with roughly 800,000 children alone living in poverty right now. The greatest thing we can do for working families is to give them the opportunity to earn a livable wage, one that can help pull them out of poverty and rebuild the middle class.”
“New Jersey workers deserve to be paid a living wage that enables them to support themselves and their families with the basic necessities,” said Sweeney. “It’s a matter of economic fairness and human dignity. No one who works a full-time job should be living in poverty, especially at a time when so much of the nation’s wealth flows up to the richest one percent.”
Senate President Sweeney, who sponsored the last two increases in the state’s minimum wage, and Speaker Prieto, who sponsored the 2013 increase that was vetoed by the governor, said that New Jerseyans strongly supported a wage hike. The leaders pointed to the Sweeney-sponsored 2013 constitutional amendment to raise the wage to $8.25, which passed with a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent.
“Few families can subsist on roughly $17,000 a year under our current minimum wage without some form of government assistance,” Prieto said. “So helping them become more self-sufficient will not only reduce government costs, but it will also boost businesses and generate jobs because countless studies show that when working families earn more, they pump that right back into the economy. So, this is an economic issue, but also a quality of life issue and ultimately a moral issue.”
“Increasing the minimum wage spurs economic and job growth because low-wage workers spend money in the local economy,” Sweeney said. “The business community said we would lose 31,000 jobs when we raised the minimum wage in 2013, but that did not happen. We actually gained more than 90,000 jobs and provided a boost to the economy.”
The 2013 constitutional amendment includes an indexing adjustment that would continue to raise the minimum wage by the rate of inflation in subsequent years after the $15 minimum is reached.