TRENTON — New Jersey voters will get the last word on whether to increase the state’s minimum wage by $1 per hour to $8.25.
The state Assembly gave final approval Thursday to a resolution putting the increase on the ballot in November and providing automatic annual increases based on the Consumer Price Index. The Senate approved the resolution previously, so the vote ensured the question’s place on the ballot in a gubernatorial election year.
Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation last month that would have increased the wage by $1.25 per hour, to $8.50, and provided for automatic yearly increases.
Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, Passaic, a sponsor of the vetoed legislation and the ballot initiative, said wages in New Jersey have not kept pace with the rising costs of housing, food and transportation, causing substantial burdens for low-wage workers.
The resolution was approved 46-31 on Thursday. Assemblyman Matthew Milam, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, was the only member of his party to vote against the measure. No Republicans supported it.
Business groups also opposed the proposal, especially the automatic indexing.
“Many small businesses cannot afford the 14 percent increase mandated by this resolution,” said Assemblyman Sean Kean, R-Monmouth, Ocean. “Adjusting the rate annually based on increases to the CPI only adds insult to injury. It would be devastating to any business’ operations, as it establishes an arbitrary formula for increasing wages and ignores market factors, which is the proper way to determine wages.”
New Jersey is among more than 20 states with a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, the same as the federal minimum wage. In his State of the Union speech Tuesday, President Barack Obama proposed raising the federal rate to $9 per hour and providing automatic increases for inflation.
Most states set a minimum wage. Washington has the highest at $9.19 per hour; Georgia and Wyoming have the lowest, at $5.15 per hour, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.