Sweeney Introduces Constitutional Amendment Raising Minimum Wage, Tying Future Increases To CPI

Initiative Would Be Placed on Ballot in 2013

TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney today introduced legislation calling for a constitutional amendment that would raise the state’s minimum wage and tie further increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The initiative would be placed on the 2013 ballot for voter approval.

“For years, New Jersey has assigned a dollar amount to the minimum wage that is woefully inadequate,” said Sweeney. “In fact, it is a complete failure. An increase must happen. By tying future increases to the CPI, we are sparing working people from having their wages tied to the whims of politicians. Governor Christie simply did not agree with us on this issue, so we took him out of the equation. Moreover, this is a promise to workers that can’t be taken away by future Legislatures or governors.”

Under the resolution, the state’s minimum wage would be increased from the current rate of $7.25 an hour to $8.25 an hour beginning in 2014. After that, any increase in the minimum wage would be indexed to the annual CPI. Voters will get to decide the issue in 2013.

According to the Office of Legislative Services, ten states, representing 21% of the nation’s workforce, have indexed their minimum wage to changes in the CPI: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Missouri, Montana, Vermont, and Washington. Every one of those states, except Vermont, adopted an indexed minimum wage by ballot initiative.

“Resetting the wage every couple of years is simply not enough to keep low income workers afloat,” said Charlie Wowkanech, President of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO. “By tying the minimum wage to the CPI, we are addressing this problem in the long term by helping workers better cope with supporting themselves and being able to feed their families. We fully support this legislation and will be working tirelessly to ensure its passage in the Legislature and its approval by voters next year.”

As of January 1, 2012, 18 states, representing 43% of the nation’s workforce, have set minimum wages above the federal minimum of the $7.25 federal minimum wage. These 18 states are listed here with the nine states among them which have indexed minimum wages bolded and italicized: Washington, $9.04; Oregon, $8.80; Vermont, $8.46; Nevada, Illinois and Connecticut, $8.25; California and Massachusetts, $8.00; Alaska, $7.75; Ohio, $7.70; Florida, $7.67; Arizona and Montana, $7.65; Colorado, $7.64; Maine and New Mexico, $7.50; and Rhode Island and Michigan, $7.40.

The legislation will head to the Senate Labor Committee.

Click here to view a copy of Senate President Sweeney’s proposed constitutional amendment.

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