TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would increase the State’s minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.15 an hour over the next two years was approved by the Senate yesterday by a vote of 26-10.
“Working class New Jerseyans are struggling under the current minimum wage to realize the American Dream, when the sad reality is that many cannot even meet their basic human needs, working more than 40 hours a week,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “We cannot allow the hardworking people of our State to continue to toil away without being able to afford decent shelter, food and health care costs. We must establish a minimum wage that, at the minimum, addresses the cost of living in the Garden State.”
The bill, S-2065, would increase the State minimum wage to $6.15 on October 1, 2005, and to $7.15 on October 1, 2006. The bill would also create a “New Jersey Minimum Wage Advisory Commission” which would 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.
“Addressing the current minimum wage is important, but without built-in protections to ensure that the purchasing power of the minimum wage remains constant, any increase is token at best,” said Senator Vitale. “The last time we increased the wage to $5.15 an hour, the cost of living in New Jersey was a lot less than it is today. We have to continually strive for a minimum wage that truly meets the needs of the people, and we have to be willing to increase the wage when it’s apparent that it is out of touch with the everyday expenses incurred by working poor New Jerseyans.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration. An identical bill, A-3781, was also approved by the Assembly Labor Committee today.