Sweeney plans NJ ballot question on phasing in $15 minimum wage

 U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross and Senate President Steve Sweeney announce their proposals for boosting the minimum wage at Statehouse news conference Tuesday. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross and Senate President Steve Sweeney announce their proposals for boosting the minimum wage at Statehouse news conference Tuesday. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross and New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney have similar plans to boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour by phasing in increases of a dollar a year.

The income gap has widened and no one should work full time and live in poverty, said Norcross.

“Back in the mid-’60s, the average wage of a worker compared to a CEO was 20 times. Today, it’s 300 times the average pay,” said Norcross. “The profits are there. The revenue is there. It’s how it’s being distributed.”

Raising the minimum will give more workers a livable wage and would benefit the economy, he said.

“They’re coming off of those assistance payrolls and contributing more to the government by way of taxes.”

Sweeney anticipated that Gov. Chris Christie would veto a proposal by the state Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto that calls for an immediate $15 an hour minimum.

So Sweeney is trying to get a constitutional amendment on the 2017 ballot that would gradually increase it.

“By providing a phase-in, you recognize the business community’s difficulty in absorbing that large of an increase all at once, and you give businesses predictability,” he said. “This gives us an opportunity to go to the people and give workers, people that go to work every single day and work hard, an opportunity to live with dignity and respect.”

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