NJ’s minimum wage goes up Jan. 1; Murphy and Dems want more
New Jersey's minimum wage is going up on Jan. 1 — but not nearly as much as Gov. Phil Murphy and some legislators hope to see it rise over the next several years.
The minimum wage will rise 25 cents to $8.85 under a voter-approved New Jersey constitutional amendment that ties the wage to the rate of inflation.
That amendment first took the raise to $8.25 an hour. It's inched up to $8.60 in the time since. The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development calculated the new increase, reflecting a 2.88 percent increase in the consumer price index in the 12 months ending in August 2018.
But also ahead in 2019: A pitched battle to raise the minimum wage substantially more, with Murphy and other key players aiming for $15. It had been a key campaign promise, and one Murphy has struggled to fulfill in negotiations with a Democratic state legislature that has proven more centrist than the progressively minded governor on issues of spending and regulation.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, earlier this month introduced legislation that would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024, though for farm, seasonal, young and small-business workers it would take until 2029. State Senate President Steve Sweeney quickly endorsed the plan.
But the legislators and Murphy have yet to agree on key aspects of the bill. In a meeting with the USA Today Network, he called the idea of waiting 11 years to get some workers to $15 "a bone in my throat."
“Our precepts continue to be get to $15 responsibly, sooner than later, and get there with as many people, sooner than later, as possible,” Murphy said at a Parsippany news conference this month.
A plan Murphy presented to lawmakers in May called for an $11 an hour minimum wage this year, increasing to $15 by 2022. It also included a slightly slower path to $15 for some workers, though Murphy says only for one-third as many as what the Legislature currently proposes.
Once those slower-tracked workers’ minimum wage reached $12.50 an hour, Murphy’s plan also would have given the state labor commissioner the ability to assess whether there had been adverse impacts. If not, the state could speed up the raises.
Murphy and legislative leaders have continued talking behind closed doors in hopes of moving toward a compromise.
Nearly three-fourths of New Jersey adults support increasing the minimum wage, according to Fairleigh Dickinson University Poll results this fall. But not nearly as many support the $15 target.
FDU poll director Krista Jenkins told New Jersey 101.5 at the time the support for a higher minimum wage is consistent with what was measured two and a half years ago.
The average minimum wage suggested by residents to an open-ended question was $12.47, up by 61 cents since the question was asked in 2016.
Democrats, on average, suggested a $13.01 minimum wage, which was 91 cents higher than their average answer in February 2016. Republicans’ suggestions averaged $11.09 an hour, or a penny more than in 2016.
— With previous reporting by Michael Symons