N.J. lawmakers move to raise minumum wage, include automatic increases

Democratic leaders in the New Jersey Legislature have decided to pursue a minimum wage increase that includes annual increases based on the rate of inflation.

Senate President Steve Sweeney expects lawmakers will vote by the end of the year on a measure sponsored by Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver that would raise the base wage from $7.25 to $8.50 and provide yearly automatic increases.

“We will put a bill on the governor’s desk that he has the option of signing,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “If he strips the (consumer price index) from it, we will move forward with a constitutional amendment to raise whatever minimum wage he didn’t raise and add the CPI to it.”

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg says the provision for a cost of living adjustment is a line in the sand for Senate Democrats.

“People shouldn’t have to wait each year with uncertainty, wait for the Legislature to take it up,” said Weinberg, D-Bergen. “If, in fact, their cost of living means that the increase in the minimum wage is worth less, then they should be getting that extra money automatically.”

The constitutional amendment would have to be approved by lawmakers in two calendar years before it goes before voters.

Sweeney said Wednesday yearly cost of living increases are needed because there are plenty of families working two and three minimum wage jobs just to get by.

He said the minimum wage increase is seven years overdue.

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