Saturday, July 13, 2013

New Jersey tries to raise minimum wage with November ballot initiative

In my state, New Jersey, the minimum wage is only $7.25. In June of 2012, the NJ senate and house voted to increase the NJ minimum wage to $8.50. However, Gov. Christie vetoed the bill in January of 2013. Now the legislature is proposing a constitutional amendment to raise the wage to $8.25 and index it to inflation. The amendment will appear on the November ballot.

A survey show that about 3/4 of the registered voters favored the initiative. NJ.COM has the story here.

Many states are planning initiaitve to raise the minimum wage. The department of labor has a map of the current minimum wage pay rates in the US. The DOL map is here. Some big Northeastern states like NY, NJ, PA and MD pay only the federal minimum wage rate.

Recent research has shown that minimum wage increases are employment neutral to employment positive because the people who receive the minimum wage spend almost 100% of their money. It also has less of an impact on small business since the majority of minimum wage employers are large companies.

Politically, the issue has gotten little attention and is expected to pass easily.  Christine, who has presidential ambitions, will mostly likely ignore the issue or make half-hearted arguments against it, to provide cover against the national Republicans.

The reason we noticed the issue was because of a group called  EPI -- The Employment Policies Institute has been running ads in New Jersey against the increase. NJ.COM has the ad for the group here. The Employment Policies Institue is a front for a convervative public relations company called Berman and Co. who's clients include companies in the low wage food and beverage industry.  You can read about Berman & Co. here and here.

EPI has two web sites opposed to raising the minimum wage.  One called EPI-Online is against raising the minimum wage and health insurance. The second called is purely against raising the minimum wage. Both sites have few facts or research based ideas and instead offer the standard convervative ideas on raising the minimum wage.

Gov. Christie refused to sign a bill during the summer of 2012 that would have raised the wage to $8.50. That led to the current ballot measure. It will interesting to see if he takes a stand on the popular issue. Opposing any minimum wage increase has become a test for republicans.

The ballot measure reads:

"Do you approve amending the State Constitution to set a State minimum wage rate of at least $8.25 per hour? The amendment also requires annual increases in that rate if there are annual increases in the cost of living. 

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