TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Stephen M. Sweeney that would increase the State minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.15 received approval today in the Senate.
“It’s time that the State stepped in to ease the burden on working families,”said Senator Sweeney, D-Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem. “A meaningful increase in the State’s minimum wage is the only real way to allow the State’s working poor to make ends meet without having to burn the candle at both ends. It is simply the right thing to do.”
Senator Sweeney’s measure, S-2065, would increase the State’s minimum wage twice over a two-year period – first to $6.15 in October of 2005 and again to $7.15 in October of 2006. The bill would create the “New Jersey Minimum Wage Advisory Commission,” to annually evaluate the State’s minimum wage and issue reports detailing recommendations for necessary wage increases.
The first report would be due to the Legislature by December of 2007. The Commission would be comprised of the State Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development and four gubernatorial appointees.
New Jersey’s first minimum wage law was enacted in 1966 at the hourly rate of $1.25. Since its introduction, the minimum wage has equaled the federal minimum wage for 17 years. In 1999, a ten-cent increase brought the minimum wage to its current level.
“There is a misconception that high school students are the only workers earning minimum wage” said Senator Sweeney. “The majority of workers earning minimum wage are over the age of twenty. This measure is a step toward increasing self-sufficiency and decreasing dependence on state and federal assistance.”
This measure was approved by the Senate Labor Committee on January 24, and it now heads to the Assembly for consideration.