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Sweeney/Vitale/Codey Measure To Increase Minimum Wage Cleared By Senate Labor Committee

Bill Would Help Those On the Lowest Rung of the Economic Ladder; Would Give Families Better Chance to Work Their Way Out of Poverty

TRENTON – Legislation Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senators Joe Vitale and Richard J. Codey sponsored to increase the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 per hour from its current rate of $7.25, and index it to the Consumer Price Index to ensure annual adjustments that are in line with increases in the cost of living was today released by the Senate Labor Committee.

The measure would directly impact the roughly 40,000 New Jerseyans who earn the minimum wage.

“Those working on the bottom rung of the economic ladder desperately need a minimum wage that doesn’t condemn them to a minimum standard of living,” said Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Cumberland/Salem). “While the cost of living has continually risen, workers earning the minimum wage have seen their incomes stagnate, keeping them farther and farther below even the poverty line. This is long overdue for those who most need it, and whose earnings will go directly back into the economy, spurring further economic growth.”

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.”

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-Gov. Codey, and was sponsored by Sweeney.

Since that increase, the Minimum Wage Advisory Commission – created by the law to track the minimum wage’s effectiveness – has recommended three times that the wage be increased to $8.50 and indexing the rate to the rate of inflation.

“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). “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.”

If enacted, the $8.50 minimum wage would be the third-highest in the country, trailing only Washington State and Oregon.

The bill was released 3-1, and now heads to the Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

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