TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which will increase the State’s minimum wage over the next two years from $5.15 an hour to $7.15 an hour was signed into law today by Governor Codey.
“Today, New Jersey has affirmed its commitment to provide a real living wage for those in the lowest pay bracket,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Across New Jersey right now, families are struggling to meet the high cost of life in the Garden State with a minimum wage that does not reflect those costs. Hope is on the horizon, however, and soon, workers can expect a $2 an hour State-mandated raise, to help cover the expenses associated with food, shelter, health care, car insurance and other necessities for life in New Jersey.”
Senator Vitale’s bill, S-2065, will increase the State minimum wage to $6.15 an hour on October 1, 2005, and to $7.15 an hour on October 1, 2006. The bill will also create a “New Jersey Minimum Wage Advisory Commission” which will annually evaluate the fairness of the minimum wage, and, when applicable, recommend increases to meet the cost of living and mitigate the depreciating value of the minimum wage over time.
“The biggest factor undercutting the effectiveness of the minimum wage is the depreciation of the dollar over time,” said Senator Vitale. “The current wage of $5.15 an hour doesn’t go as far as it did back in 1999, when the State last set the minimum wage at that level. We need ongoing protections to ensure that the buying power of the minimum wage remains constant no matter what.”
Senator Vitale added that the raise in the minimum wage, while it may be hard to face for some small business owners, is necessary to protect workers.
“At the end of the day, any increase in the minimum wage comes down to compassion for the working poor who are struggling to get by,” said Senator Vitale. “We recognize that life in New Jersey is expensive, and any family trying to make do on a minimum wage knows that sometimes hard decisions are necessary to stretch every penny. But, no family should have to skimp on the necessary expenses, like rent, food, transportation and health care, and an increase in the minimum wage creates a more equitable environment where the basic needs of our State’s working poor residents can be met.”
The bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 26-10 in February, and was approved by the Assembly by a vote of 52-19 with 6 abstentions in March.