Lawmakers are planning to push forward with a bill to phase in a minimum wage increase from $8.60 to $15 an hour, with the goal of having the bill signed sometime in the fall.
The announcement came Thursday at a joint rally with Gov. Phil Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-19th District, at Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen in New Brunswick.
“We’re ready to take this on,” Murphy said. “A stronger economy is underpinned by good jobs and better wages.”
Any bill calling for the minimum wage increase would need to have it phased in over several years, both Democrats said, otherwise they wouldn’t support the legislation.
“For the business community, we’ve got to be careful of the sticker shock. You can’t make that leap overnight, so this has to be phased in over a series of years,” Murphy said.
Legislators have spent the summer hammering out the framework of the measure, according to Coughlin, adding they are still in the “formulation phase.”
Murphy, who campaigned on a platform of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, said a best-case scenario would be for legislation to be enacted “within the next couple months.”
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, said in a statement he supported the efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
"It is the right thing to do for working people and the smart thing to do for the economy," Sweeney said.
But Laurie Ehlbeck, the National Federation of Independent Business’ state director for New Jersey, said small businesses must be taken into account before any legislation is passed.
“When a small business simply cannot afford the additional labor costs of a minimum wage increase they are forced to seek alternatives to stay solvent, such as eliminating jobs, reducing employee benefits, cutting hours and raising prices. Consumers may not be willing to pay more than the market allows,” Ehlbeck said in a statement.
“ … This proposal on minimum wage is misguided and will hurt the people who it is meant to help. New Jersey recently ranked at rock bottom in a national survey for the cost of doing business, and our policymakers should be devising ways to counter that,” she added.
Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, agreed that any increase to the minimum wage would need to be phased in over several years, especially given the impact on small-business owners.
“Many of our members have already told us they will not be able to absorb a significant increase in the minimum wage without reducing staff, hours or benefits, raising prices or automating,” Siekerka said in a statement. “As such … the pathway must be a gradual phased-in one affording our job creators predictability and the ability to keep up with the continuing rising costs of running their business.”