Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Minimum Wage Push

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Minimum Wage Push

Article excerpt

Senate Democratic leaders argued Monday that the state's minimum wage needs future regular increases -- and are banking on the state's residents agreeing with them.

Under a resolution proposed by Senate President Stephen Sweeney, voters would face a question on the 2013 ballot proposing an amendment to the constitution to not only raise the minimum wage by $1 to $8.25, but also to tie future increases to the Consumer Price Index, a measure of inflation.

In a state where high numbers of unemployed residents are seeking low-paying jobs or second jobs, Sweeney said his plan would help those people out of poverty while ensuring regular incremental raises rather than erratic hikes.

"There is a misperception out there that the minimum wage is for high school kids looking to make a few bucks over the summer. That is entirely false," Sweeney said at a three-hour hearing by the Senate Budget Committee.

He said the increase would affect workers who were largely full time, often women or minorities, and in many cases parents. About 307,000 workers would have been affected by such an increase 2011.

But his plan faces opposition from Governor Christie and his fellow Republicans, who argue against the automatic future-indexed increase and say Sweeney should not use a constitutional amendment process to get it through. Christie has said he will consider a minimum-wage increase among future economic measures.

Business groups at Monday's hearing did not object to discussing increasing pay, but did not support the resolution.

"It's clear that people are struggling, and we understand the intentions of this legislation as people are struggling," said Stefanie Riehl, of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. She said the group favored worker training over mandated pay increases, and was concerned about the proposed constitutional amendment. …

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