Governor’s Minimum Wage Decision Toys with the Lives of New Jersey’s Poorest Workers


Gov. Chris Christie today conditionally vetoed A2162, which would have increased New Jersey’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour on March 1 and adjusted the wage annually to correspond with the Consumer Price Index. In sending the bill back to legislators, the governor is instead asking for an increase to $8.25 per hour over three years. And he is also stripping out the inflation adjustments, a key element of the wage increase.

“Over 300,000 New Jerseyans — many of them working full time — have been dealt a cruel blow by the governor’s conditional veto of the minimum wage increase. Those working 40 hours each week and every week of the year would see their incomes rise from $15,080 to $15,600 a year in 2013,” says New Jersey Policy Perspective president Gordon MacInnes. “The governor’s conditional veto proclaims that workers at the bottom of the wage scale can get by on no more than a 3 percent raise for the time being. What is worse than the paltry increase in the minimum wage is the elimination of the inflation adjuster going forward. The last increase to $7.25 an hour in 2005 now purchases $6.17 worth of necessities – a 15 percent pay cut. In fact, the first year increase proposed by the governor of 25 cents will be erased by inflation by the time the third year kicks in its 25 cents.”

The governor’s conditional veto also calls for a restoration of the state Earned Income Tax Credit to the level it was before the governor cut it in 2010. While this is a welcomed gesture, the restored EITC benefits would not kick in for too long for the hard-working New Jerseyans who have suffered under the governor’s only tax hike.

“Making those who are eligible for the EITC restoration wait until April 2015 before seeing any benefits ignores their plight, particularly since they were the only Jerseyans to be handed a tax increase in 2010,” MacInnes says. “This again shows little appreciation for the desperate struggles of New Jersey’s poorest workers to survive in this high-cost state.”

Here are the facts. The bill conditionally vetoed today by the governor would have provided a crucial boost to New Jersey’s low-wage workers and to its ailing economy.

It would have immediately stimulated New Jersey’s economy

• Wages would have increased by $439 million in the first year
• Overall economic activity would increase by $278 million in the first year
• The equivalent of 2,420 new full time jobs would be created

It would increase wages to many New Jerseyans

• 537,000 people would have received an increase in wages: 307,000 New Jerseyans making between $7.25 and $8.50 per hour would’ve seen an immediate raise, and 230,000 New Jerseyans making between $8.50 and $9.75 per hour would’ve seen a raise as pay scales were adjusted upwards.

Many families with children would benefit

• It would have benefited 127,245 parents
• 279,815 children have at least one parent that would have be affected

Most potential beneficiaries are educated but can’t find a higher paying job

• 76% have at least a high school diploma
• 39% have some college or a college degree

These low-wage workers are a diverse group

• 46% are White, 13% are Black and 34% are Hispanic
• 56% are women and 44% are men

Most of these workers are adults, not teenagers

• 85% are 20 years old or older

Many are working full time

• 78% are working either full time (35+ hours a week) or mid time (20-34 hours a week). Only 21% are working part time (19 or fewer hours a week)