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Constitutional hike to minimum wage is poor policy

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When you think of fear and loathing, you're probably thinking of Las Vegas — or maybe Atlantic City — as opposed to the minimum wage, but the degree of anxiety business groups have over that ballot question is hard to overstate. Opponents recently united to attempt to override the huge public support the measure has, and began airing ads to point out the doom and gloom promised by the bill.

We think it's bad policy, and poor form on the part of Legislature, to take a bill that didn't survive Chris Christie's veto pen and use the constitution as a back door to making this the law. Even if you support an increase to the minimum wage, you can't be satisfied that this is how voters are being asked to approve an increase — especially after the governor suggested a compromise that would bump up the rate without tying it to the consumer price index.

The question seeks to institute an immediate $1 increase in the minimum wage, with future increases tied to the CPI. It's the latter part of the proposal that's most worrisome to industry groups, who fear a fast-rising inflation rate could send the minimum wage through the roof, and add that any additional spending by low-wage workers would be canceled out by lost jobs and economic output.

That part we find a bit hard to swallow.

If New Jersey were the only state considering a link between the minimum wage and the CPI, critics might be on to something. But there are 10 states that already do this, and none of them have unreasonably high minimum wages. In fact, as we point out on our Page One story, most are within $1 of New Jersey's $7.25 rate. So we'd see an increase, for sure, but not the kind of dreaded numbers being floated out there. To see the sort of double-digit increases some groups are afraid of would require big leaps in the inflation rate — which would represent a concern far more serious than what we pay low-skilled workers.

It seems possible, if unpleasant, for businesses to swallow an increase. But it's unfair that this is how we're being asked to decide. If Democrats are so concerned about the wage-to-CPI link, they should try to override the governor's veto or pursue the measure again down the road. This is an ugly way to go about it.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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