Still time to raise N.J. minimum wage

Posted: July 23, 2012

Too bad New Jersey Democrats couldn't keep their promise to raise the minimum wage by July 1.

If they had, the Economic Policy Institute says, the 307,000 workers who now make less than the proposed $8.50 an hour in the nation's fifth most expensive state would have been able to spend an additional $278 million on local goods and services, which in turn would have created 2,420 jobs.

Instead of lifting up hardworking people and helping the state's economy, the Legislature and Gov. Christie spent the months leading up to July arguing over whether to give residents an income-tax or a property-tax break.

That spat was about as real as one of the doctored videos you can see on YouTube, since the state can't afford either tax cut. Fortunately, the Democrats eventually said so.

Now, the Democrats want to ask voters to raise the minimum wage through a referendum that would appear on the ballot next year. That's not the best route. States that lock themselves into specific expenditures constitutionally find themselves in a pickle when they need to, but can't, spend those funds otherwise.

Besides, with a 9.6 percent unemployment rate — well above the nation's 8.2 percent rate — New Jerseyans need relief now.

The Assembly passed a bill raising the minimum wage, but Senate President Stephen Sweeney sat on it after Christie said he would toss out a formula that would tie wages to inflation. But the governor left room for negotiations, so let's negotiate.

Sweeney wants to join the 28 states that have raised their minimum wage, including 10 with automatic cost-of-living adjustments. He should put the bill up for a vote. Christie should stop thinking about the speech he wants to make at the Republican convention and concentrate on helping working people in his state pay their bills.

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