The Assembly Labor Committee considers a measure tomorrow that would boost the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour, and would require annual adjustments in the minimum wage based on the Consumer Price Index.

Supporters say the legislation is absolutely necessary, and it would pump more money into the local economy, but critics insist just the opposite would happen.

Stefanie Riehl, Assistant Vice President for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, says “historically the business community has had concerns about raising the minimum wage – especially in difficult economies like the one that we are in right now…the bill to be considered tomorrow would boost wages by 17 percent, and that would make New Jersey’s minimum wage the 3rd highest in the nation, behind only Washington and Oregon- and it would put our businesses at a competitive disadvantage.”

She says “our recent business outlook survey revealed that for the 3rd consecutive year in a row, more companies are reporting a decline in their actual sales – their profits – than reported an increase…sales are not rising fast enough to accommodate forced wage hikes like the one that’s being proposed.”

Riehl also points out if the measure is passed “that could be a problem when businesses are deciding where to locate, or where to stay or what jobs that they can sustain going forward…when there is a minimum wage increase, that there is sometimes a reduction in the hours (of full-time employees) because again, there is a set amount of money set aside for payroll…I would argue that we’re seeing an unprecedented economic time – so I don’t know that anyone truly understands where that tipping point lies.”

She also says the NJBIA emphasizes increasing wages as a result of people gaining in their skill sets – “so for instance there are state programs that are available that provide workers with basic skills that they need and those skills translate throughout their careers…and that’s what makes them more marketable and that’s what causes an increase in wages that’s not artificial and really will help the person in the end get a better quality of life.”

Governor Christie has indicated he has serious reservations about the legislation.