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Can't support ballot question on minimum wage

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Next month, voters will be asked whether they approve of a measure increasing the minimum wage and tying future hikes to the consumer price index.

It's one of those bills that seems like it would be a good idea in theory, but in practice creates another headache for a business community that's already in search of some Excedrin. We encourage business owners to vote no on the referendum.

We're sympathetic to the plight of those who don't earn a sustainable income. To that end, we certainly support an increase to the minimum wage — New Jersey's is among the nation's highest, though its cost of living balances that out.

But we're also sympathetic to business owners who will be the ones suddenly socked with higher payroll costs. What makes this measure that much harder to support is the CPI link, which makes wages much less predictable for business owners going forward.

If executives can't comfortably plan for what their payroll will look like in the short term, they're going to be hard pressed to enjoy the kind of confidence that's needed to add employees and expand operations. If you're considering whether or not to expand — not easy in its own right — not knowing whether a new hire will run you $7.50 or $9.50 an hour a few years from now is a serious incentive to do nothing. That's bad news when both the economy and the employment picture are in need of some juice.

When Chris Christie let his veto pen do the talking after legislative Democrats introduced this measure, he suggested a phased-in increase to the minimum wage that was decoupled from the CPI.

Rather than pursue that, or attempt to override the veto, Democrats are attempting a constitutional workaround that violates the spirit of the legislative process. That makes this bill a bad precedent alongside being bad news. We'd rather see the conversation turn to compromise over a sensible increase, and not an obstacle protected in the state constitution. Voters should reject this question when they head to the polls Nov. 5.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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