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$15-an-hour minimum wage bill likely this fall, Murphy, Coughlin say

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Gov. Phil Murphy speaks at Elijah's Promise Soup Kitchen Sept. 6, in New Brunswick.
Gov. Phil Murphy speaks at Elijah's Promise Soup Kitchen Sept. 6, in New Brunswick. - ()

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.”

“A stronger economy is underpinned by good jobs and better wages.”

- Gov. Phil Murphy

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.”

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Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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Michael Costigan September 12, 2018 8:51 pm

Although well meaning, the increase even if phased in over a few years will have far reaching adverse results in these private duty home care industry. Businesses will be forced to pass on the additional costs to those individuals most at risk financially- our Seniors.

Lee September 8, 2018 9:02 am

Small business company with strong benefits and pay rate above current minimum. Competes against companies outside NJ. End product entirely price sensitive, with labor the second largest cost component. NJ law will force layoffs and termination of long term valued employees. Customers will switch to out of state vendors unless Company cuts cost. Labor suffers. Yet looks good on paper. Any Politician stating either "right thing to do" or "investment", should use correct phrasing of " buying votes" as JK so notes.

pat Conway September 11, 2018 11:29 am

Not the correct first step.
Murphy doesn't understand that will drive more small businesses to leave the state.
Create a positive environment for business to open and flourish those businesses will need employees.

NY State has done it up state and the tech firms are paying good salaries.

tia September 11, 2018 12:30 pm

This is ridiculous. There's better ways to support people than putting the burden on the small businesses and driving them out. Not to mention all of the long-term negative consequences.

I am college aged and I was the only one of my friends to get a summer job this year. Businesses aren't hiring enough workers because of labor costs. Want to know a consequence of raising the minimum range for services? An even faster transition to automation. An increase in wages for the small amount of people who will still have their jobs does not outweigh the negative consequence of losing future permanent jobs to kiosks and self-service. Not to mention a whole younger population that is exiting high school never knowing the experience of having a job.

Mike V. September 6, 2018 5:19 pm

Not a supporter. The minimum wage in Pennsylvania today is $7.25 (the Fed minimum wage).

jk September 6, 2018 3:22 pm

Well if you don't tax all of the GOOD employers out of the state you would have good paying jobs. I would say a job at starbucks or mc donalds is a GOOD job.
What are these guys thinking other then trying to buy votes.