A proposal to increase the state's hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50, which is strongly opposed by business groups, passed by a 46-33 margin this afternoon in the state Assembly.
The bill, A-2162, is among several that would affect businesses in the state, including bills that would stop the Department of Environmental Protection from imposing a new rule allowing waivers of regulations and another that would require an independent audit of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The minimum-wage hike has brought together employer groups in an effort to defeat the measure. Both the New Jersey Business & Industry Association and the state chapter of the National Federation Independent Business issued statements ahead of the voting session criticizing the measure.
Laurie Ehlbeck, NFIB state director, said employers can't "sprinkle pixie dust on their other expenses and make them disappear" to offset a 17 percent wage increase.
"If their goal is to protect our reputation as one of the worst places in America to do business, then raising the minimum wage is a great idea," Ehlbeck said of bill supporters.
A provision that would provide future minimum wage increases automatically based on inflation is of particular concern to business advocates.
NJBIA Assistant Vice President Stefanie Riehl said annual increases would make the state less attractive than those states without inflation-based increases.
"This proposal would put New Jersey businesses at a competitive disadvantage with their counterparts in 30 other states," said Riehl, who handles employment and labor policy for the NJBIA.
The nonprofit New Jersey Policy Perspective supports the measure, arguing that the wage hike would help spur the economy.
"Approving the proposed $1.25 per hour increase will ripple throughout New Jersey, producing an estimated $278 million in new economic activity. That's what I call a smart investment," NJPP President Gordon MacInnes said in a statement.
The waiver resolution, ACR-37, says the DEP waiver rule doesn't follow the legislative intent of state law. If approved by both houses, Gov. Chris Christie's administration would have 30 days to respond. Then the Legislature would have the ability to vote on the measure again and effectively block the waiver rule.
Another bill on the agenda, A-1543, would revise the state law affecting limited liability corporations. The bill brings the state more in line with other states' regulations and is supported by business organizations.