The New Jersey Senate budget committee has advanced a bill to boost the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour and provide automatic yearly increases based on the rate of inflation.
None of the Republicans on the committee voted in favor of the legislation on Monday.
Labor and anti-poverty groups that support raising the base pay say it would help improve the lives of low-income workers and inject money into New Jersey’s economy.
A minimum wage increase could help small businesses that are trying to recover from Hurricane Sandy, says Samia Nahsoun, a member of the Main Street Alliance.
“It would allow those consumers that have a slight additional income to afford the luxury to buy a beach badge, to go to the small stores on the Jersey Shore and have the luxury of having their nails done, their hair done, and take the kids at night for ice cream,” she said.
Adele LaTourette, director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, says it’s critical to tie the minimum wage to the consumer price index.
“We need to give people jobs that afford them the ability to buy their own food, to pay their own rent, the perhaps buy their own home, and give them the dignity to live the way they choose to live,” she said.
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association, which opposes the measure, contends many businesses suffered storm damage that’s not covered by insurance, and they just can’t afford to pay more than the present minimum wage.
Democratic lawmakers say if Gov. Chris Christie rejects the automatic yearly increases, they’ll move ahead with a constitutional amendment that would allow voters to approve or deny it.