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Governor makes right call on minimum-wage increase

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We haven't been alone in pointing out that, for every time Chris Christie has insisted he's the governor of bipartisanship and cooperation, there's at least one instance of leveling a “numbnuts” or “take the bat out” on the majority party here.

Last week, though, was more about compromise than condescension from the governor's office, when he conditionally vetoed a bill to increase the minimum wage by suggesting a smaller jump that would be phased in over the next two years. Democrats, perhaps fearing a brobdingnagian beating in November, quickly rallied their base by insisting they'd push for a ballot question to immediately increase the wage to $8.50 an hour and tie future increases to the consumer price index.

We appreciate Democrats' concern for the common worker in high-cost New Jersey. But it's a high-cost place to run a business, too, and a sharp increase in the minimum wage would spell serious trouble for retailers, restaurants and the many small-business owners who are still waiting for an economic rebound. If those businesses lay off employees as a result of the wage increase — as many have said they would — it would further exacerbate the state's ongoing employment crisis.

It was refreshing to see business associations and other advocates so warmly embrace the idea of raising the minimum wage to a level above neighboring New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware, as they did when Christie announced his conditional veto on Monday. Democrats have the chance to take that energy and tell their voters they got Christie to approve an increase in their wages while holding back an income tax cut that would have favored the wealthy. Instead, they've again chosen to go toe-to-toe with a governor who's left them more black-and-blue than Jess Willard after his famous boxing match with Jack Dempsey. And all the while, business owners who hoped for some clarity by now must wait to see if the issue goes directly to the voters in an upcoming election. At least after waiting through partisan bickering over issues like Hurricane Sandy aid and the ridiculous fiscal cliff, the waiting game is something executives are getting rather good at.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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