The New Jersey Senate Thursday voted to increase the state minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 and include annual cost-of-living adjustments, a move expected to draw a veto from Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
The Democratic-controlled chamber also took the first step toward putting the issue before voters in anticipation of veto by approving a proposed constitutional amendment, reports the Newark Star-Ledger
Republican opponents said they would be willing to raise the minimum wage gradually, but refused to sign off on automatic cost of living adjustments. Republican Sen. Jennifer Beck said she would have voted for the wage hike before Hurricane Sandy hit the state in October. But now she says it would be too costly to employers trying to recover or rebuild.
Democrats, however, said most Republicans and states businesses were opposed to the increase long before Hurricane Sandy. Senate President Stephen Sweeney called the excuse “offensive," adding that he tried to negotiate with Republicans and businesses on the cost of living adjustments, a claim Christie denied.
"No one’s ever negotiated with me on minimum wage. And I’ve been begging to be negotiated with for months," Christie said, according to the Star Ledger. "So I’ll continue to say on minimum wage that I’m willing to consider a responsible minimum wage package but let’s be clear on this thing. We’ve got thousands of businesses wiped out and is this really now the moment to say to those folks, ‘We’re going to hit you with a $1.25 increase on March 1 and a (cost of living increase) beyond that?’"
The bill still has long road to travel before it becomes law, the newspaper noted. The state assembly passed it earlier this year, but will have to vote on it again because its effective date was changed in the Senate. And to bypass a Christie veto, and put the amendment on the 2013 ballot, the assembly will have to move by the end of the year, and then both chambers of the legislature would have to approve it again next year.
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