Murphy pressures top N.J. Democrats to pass $15 minimum wage hike

N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy is pressuring lawmakers to bring the state minimum wage up to $15 an hour. That would fulfill one of his campaign promises. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy is pressuring lawmakers to bring the state minimum wage up to $15 an hour. That would fulfill one of his campaign promises. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy is putting pressure on top Democratic lawmakers to pass legislation hiking the state’s minimum wage to $15, hoping to fulfill a major campaign promise to begin phasing in an increase during his first year in office.

During a news conference Monday outside his office, Murphy called on lawmakers to send him a bill before the end of the year.

“Let’s hope both our holiday wish list and the Legislature’s Dec. 17 board list include putting New Jersey on a responsible and certain path,” Murphy said.

Murphy has reportedly tangled with state Senate President Steve Sweeney over the details of a minimum wage hike, and the governor’s Monday morning news conference overlapped with a major legislative hearing on legalizing recreational marijuana that Sweeney, D-Gloucester, was attending.

“This is no time for staged rallies and dueling press conferences,” Sweeney said, in a statement. “Let’s sit down, do the hard work and agree on a bill.”

Although top Democrats have expressed their support for such a move, business groups warn that a $15 minimum wage could result in cuts to staff, hours, and benefits.

“Any responsible pathway to raising the minimum wage should take into consideration the impact on our small- business owners, which drive our economy and support our communities,” said Michele N. Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

Still, lawmakers and faith leaders continued to press for a hike in the minimum wage in the coming months.

Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake, D-Essex, said working people earning a minimum wage continue to struggle in New Jersey, where the cost of housing is notoriously high.

“How do I know? Because I was there myself,” Timberlake said. “It wasn’t just a few years ago that I was working for around about $9 an hour as a baker and taking four buses to work and still not being able to make ends meet.”

Others at Monday’s briefing said hiking the minimum wage was a social justice issue that disproportionately affects women and people of color.

“While a $15 an hour minimum wage will not solve every problem,” said the Rev. Charles Boyer of the Bethel AME Church in Woodbury, “ask somebody who’s only making $8 and change, and they will certainly tell you that it will certainly solve a lot of problems.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.