N.J. GOP leader offers 2 cents’ worth on Dems’ plan to hike minimum wage

New Jersey Sen. Tom Kean says the state's employers will not be able to sustain a $15 minimum wage. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey Sen. Tom Kean says the state's employers will not be able to sustain a $15 minimum wage. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

With Democrats about to take full control in January, Republicans in the New Jersey Legislature know that a higher minimum wage is not far off.

The top Republican in the state Senate now wants to make sure that Democrats don’t go too far.

The issue of affordability is the greatest challenge confronting New Jersey lawmakers, said Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, and he’s calling for a bipartisan compromise.

“Let’s work together to build a legislative package that raises the minimum wage to a level that is modern and fair and also reduces the income tax for the struggling middle class,” said Kean, R-Union.

Senate President Steve Sweeney called Kean’s proposal a political stunt.

“We’re going ahead with the minimum wage regardless. We’ve already made that decision. The only reason we didn’t increase the minimum wage last time was because Gov. Christie vetoed it,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “Gov. Murphy will sign it.”

Gov.-elect Phil Murphy, a Democrat, supports gradually increasing the minimum wage — now $8.44 an hour — to $15.

Kean said that’s too much.

“It should certainly be less than $15 because that would drive many businesses and employees out of work,” he said.

Democrats also want to pass a surcharge on the state’s wealthiest residents, the “millionaires tax,” but Kean said that would put New Jersey at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states.

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