Bill Would Give Families Better Chance to Work Their Way Out of Poverty
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senators Joe Vitale and Richard J. Codey that would increase the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour from its current rate of $7.25, and tie future increases to the Consumer Price Index was today released by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
“For years, New Jersey has assigned a dollar amount to the minimum wage that is woefully inadequate,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “In fact, it is a complete failure. An increase must happen. Moreover, the additional money earned by those making minimum wage will go right back into the economy. We are giving Governor Christie an opportunity to do right by hard working people by signing this bill into law. If the governor won’t sign the bill, then we will go directly to the voters to get it done.”
The sponsors noted that at the current minimum wage, a single parent working a minimum wage job to take care of his or her family earns only $15,080 annually – below the federal poverty line.
“The minimum wage should be a way for someone to work their way out of poverty, not to spend 40 hours each week at a job just to stay in poverty,” said Vitale (D-Middlesex). “It’s shameful that one of the wealthiest states in the nation still relegates a portion of its workforce to below the poverty line. Our residents deserve better than minimum – they deserve a wage that can help them support their families.”
“An honest day’s work must be rewarded with an honest day’s pay, at a wage that is just not a token, but livable,” said Codey (D-Essex, Morris). “Our current minimum wage is not a livable wage, and anyone who would tell you otherwise has never tried to live at it. We must take this step to not only help the families who most need it, but to ensure that they don’t again fall backwards.”
New Jersey’s minimum wage last increased in 2009, when the federal minimum wage was increased to $7.25 per hour. Prior to that, state law enacted in 2005 shepherded in a three-year period of growth that saw the rate increase from $5.15 per hour to $7.15 per hour. That bill was signed by then-Governor Codey, and was sponsored by Sweeney.
If enacted, the $8.50 minimum wage would be the third-highest in the country, trailing only Washington State and Oregon.
The bill, S-3, now heads to the full Senate.