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NJ: Is it time to raise the minimum wage?
Asbury Park Press

January 11, 2012
View the Original Article


Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver said Monday that one of her top legislative priorities this year will be raising New Jersey’s minimum wage, from $7.25 an hour — the lowest allowable by federal law — to $8.50 an hour. It’s long overdue.

A full-time worker at minimum wage would make $17,680 a year with the increase. Try to live on $17,680 a year in New Jersey, a state with one of the highest costs of living in the nation. Even two people in a family of four making minimum wage would have a tough time.

The state Legislature last voted to raise the minimum wage in 2005. In 2009, it automatically rose to $7.25 an hour to match the new federal minimum wage.

Support for such an increase should be a bipartisan effort. Sadly, it may not be. But if Gov. Chris Christie is serious about jump-starting the economy, he should resist the groundless arguments typically advanced by opponents of raising the minimum wage and support such an increase.

Far too many Trenton Republicans, including Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, a member of the Assembly Budget Committee, seem to buy into the stale old contentions that come up every time an increase in the minimum wage is on the table: that it will unnecessarily burden employers or result in substantial job layoffs — claims that experience in states that have raised the minimum wage have shown to be largely unfounded.

There is no justification for a minimum wage that is well below the 2011-12 federal poverty line for a family of four of $22,350.

The arguments in favor of the increase far outweigh fears that it will halt New Jersey’s stutter-step economic recovery. It is well documented that minimum-wage workers are more likely to pour any increase back into the economy. If you are making $8.50 an hour, you are a lot less likely to stash your “windfall” in tax shelters than, say, a hedge-fund manager.

Oliver noted in her remarks Monday that the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago estimated that a $1-an-hour increase in the minimum wage translates to an additional $3,200 increase in spending by families with minimum-wage earners. That is a boost to the economy New Jersey could sorely use.

Perhaps more importantly, however, is the question of simple economic fairness. The Legislature and governor should get on the right side of this issue — on the side of those who work hard every day to provide for their families.

Calling for an increase in the minimum wage is not the act of bleeding hearts. It will not only help those who need it the most, it will help the overall economy. The Republicans need to get on board with this.