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To Hike or Not To Hike: NJ Business Leaders, Politicians Debate Raising Minimum Wage

Posted on 10/9/2013 by EDTP Coordinator in Small Business & The Economy Small Business Policy

There is a battle brewing over raising the minimum wage in New Jersey. Voters will decide Nov. 5 whether to approve a constitutional amendment to hike the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 and install automatic yearly increases based on the Consumer Price Index.

TRENTON — New Jersey’s battle over raising the minimum wage got maximum attention Thursday.
At a rally in Seaside Heights, where the boardwalk burned last month, small-business owners said they can’t afford to pay higher wages while the state is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.
At a dinner in North Brunswick hours later, the state’s top two Democratic candidates — Cory Booker and Barbara Buono — said a higher minimum wage is needed now more than ever because New Jersey’s middle class is shrinking.
New Jersey voters will decide Nov. 5 whether to approve a constitutional amendment to hike the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 and install automatic yearly increases based on the Consumer Price Index.
"It’s hard to imagine that in 2013, working people have to live on $7.25 an hour," Buono, the state senator running against Gov. Chris Christie, told union leaders at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 456 headquarters. "That’s not a living wage. That’s a starving wage."
Democrats in the state Legislature put the question to voters after Christie vetoed their effort to pass an increase through legislation, saying the state’s economy is too weak to handle it.
A recent survey by Legal Services of New Jersey found a record 24.7 percent of New Jersey’s population — 2.1 million residents — was considered poor in 2011.
Two polls released last month showed a majority of New Jersey voters support the ballot question.
"People all over the state, what they are seeing is, everything is going up," Booker, the Newark mayor running in the state’s special Oct. 16 election for U.S. Senate, said. "Rent is going up, gas is going up. Everything is going up but their wages."
But business owners and leaders who gathered in Seaside Heights — the site of a massive fire that destroyed a large stretch of the boardwalk — urged voters to reject the amendment.
Standing about a block from the charred rubble of his boardwalk arcade, Bobby Stewart said the minimum wage question comes at the worst moment in his business career. Stewart said he lost two-thirds of the Carousel Arcade to Hurricane Sandy and the other third to last month’s fire.
"I grew up on this boardwalk. I’ve been here all my life," he said. "I started at below minimum wage when I was 11 years old and I hire kids at minimum wage. That’s the only people in my organization that gets paid minimum wage and I teach them and they come along and they get raises. That’s how it is in my business. I wouldn’t start bringing them up and bringing them around at 14 years old if I had to pay them more money. I wouldn’t be able to afford it."
Thomas Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, was baffled by the amendment.
"Why in the world would legislators want to do this at a time when businesses are trying to recover, trying to stay profitable, trying to stay in business?" Bracken asked. "Why would they do it at a time when businesses are very vulnerable?"
Laurie Ehlbeck, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said that "as a matter of common sense, employers cannot be expected to pay higher labor costs every year along with higher taxes, higher insurance, higher gas prices and higher interest rates without any damage to the job market and the economy."
But proponents argue a hike in pay for will help boost the economy.
"An increase in the state’s minimum wage will boost sales as workers are able to buy needed goods and services they could not afford before the increase," said Corinne Horowitz, business representative with the New Jersey Main Street Alliance. "And nothing drives job creation more than consumer demand."
Source: http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/10/to_hike_or_not_to_hike_nj_business_leaders_politicians_debate_raising_minimum_wage.html