Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski announced on Wednesday that they will introduce legislation to raise New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 per hour from the current $8.38.
“As we continue to review other proposals as part of our new anti-poverty initiative, this will be an integral component in our efforts to stop the decline in the middle class and lift working families out of poverty,” said Prieto (D-Bergen/Hudson). “In order to do that, our first step must be to ensure that all workers are paid fairly for their labor. The constitutional minimum wage that we established a few years ago set a floor, not a ceiling. While that was the best and most feasible thing we could do at the time, we now need to strive for better to reverse the poverty trend in this state.”
“With middle class families in decline and the ranks of low-income families growing, it’s time New Jersey took bold action to stop the backsliding and rebuild an economy that works for everyone” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “It’s not that long ago when American families could live on the earnings of one worker. Today, middle class families with two incomes are struggling to provide for their family. Anyone working hard at a full-time job should, at the least, be able to provide their family with the basics — a roof over their family’s head, food on the table and clothes on their back. Is that too much to expect?”
The proposal would go into effect immediately upon being signed into law. The lawmakers acknowledged that the bill would have a difficult road to passage but said it was a fight worth fighting.
“When businesses fail to pay a living wage, government is forced to fill the gap,” added Wisniewski. “Essentially, taxpayers are subsidizing these low-paying jobs and, in the process, suppressing wages for everyone else in the workforce. It’s not fair for workers or for the taxpayers who end up paying the bill. The American economy works best with a healthy middle class that has money in their pocket to spend.”
The lawmakers noted that almost 90 percent of beneficiaries of an increase in the minimum wage are over twenty years old according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Prieto and Wisniewski expect to introduce the bill during the next Assembly quorum call on Thursday.