The New Jersey Assembly has given final legislative approval to a measure allowing voters to decide in November whether to raise the minimum wage.
The referendum on a constitutional amendment bypasses Gov. Chris Christie who vetoed the Democrats’ bill to boost the base pay by a dollar.
Workers will be glad of the increase to $8.25 per hour, but some legislators and business representatives have their doubts.
Changing the state Constitution to increase the minimum wage and allow for annual increases is a bad idea, says Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick.
“Businesses are going to relocate in another state. Or if they thought about coming here, they’re not going to be here,” said Bramnick, R-Union. “Or they’re not going to hire those high school kids over the summer.”
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver disagrees, maintaining that boosting the minimum wage will not stop companies from hiring.
“It has never contributed to unemployment. We know that the minimum wage does, in fact, improve the economic condition in whatever state it is elevated in,” said Oliver, D-Essex. “And that’s going to happen in our state as well.”
Oliver says she doesn’t want to depend on the Republican-controlled House to approve President Barack Obama’s proposed $9 an hour minimum, and New Jersey needs to act now.
Stefanie Riehl with the New Jersey Business and Industry Association has another worry. A constitutional amendment would not allow the Legislature to make quick adjustments to the minimum wage in an emergency, she said.
“We have had several unfortunate emergency situations in our state like Superstorm Sandy,” Riehl said. “We know that some of our Shore businesses are paying minimum wage right now for their seasonal workers, and this is going to be a very difficult pill for them to swallow.”