N.J. voters support minimum wage increase

Posted: November 07, 2013

New Jersey voters approved a ballot measure Tuesday to raise the state's minimum wage by $1 to $8.25 an hour, with annual cost-of-living increases.

New Jersey joins 18 states and the District of Columbia that have minimum wages higher than the federal level.

The state is the 11th to tie future increases to cost of living, according to New Jersey Policy Perspective, a liberal-leaning think tank.

The provision guaranteeing automatic increases tied to the Consumer Price Index "will ensure that New Jersey's low-wage workers don't fall even further behind," said NJPP president Gordon McInnes.

About 429,000 residents - or 11 percent of the state's workforce - will be affected by the increase, according to NJPP. The figure includes workers who make up to $9.25 an hour and would receive future increases.

The ballot question, which will amend the state's constitution, was hotly contested by groups from New Jersey and out of state that lobbied voters with dueling economic messages.

A coalition of labor groups touted the wage increase, saying it would help workers and the economy. In high-cost New Jersey, workers can't survive on $7.25 an hour, they argued. They said raising the wage would pump money into the economy, boosting small businesses.

Opponents, including the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and a national group funded in part by the restaurant industry, countered that raising the wage with automatic, future increases would hurt the economy, forcing business owners to raise prices or cut hours.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group, blasted the minimum-wage measure as "reckless and stupid."

"The very New Jersey workers this aims to help, teenagers and low-skilled workers in particular, will be the ones hurt the most in the way of lost jobs and opportunity," Daryn Iwicki, AFP's state director, said in a statement, criticizing lawmakers for pushing the measure through a ballot question rather than passing a law.

The Legislature passed a bill to increase the wage to $8.50 with future cost-of-living increases, but Gov. Christie vetoed the measure.

Voters overwhelmingly approved a second ballot question to allow veterans groups to use proceeds from games of chance to pay for operating costs, not only events or charitable purposes. Veterans groups said they wanted to use money to pay bills and make repairs to their buildings.


mhanna@phillynews.com

609-989-8990

@maddiehanna

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