Gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour would provide a huge boost to the economic security of over 1 million New Jersey workers and a jolt to the state’s economy, Congressional leaders and policy experts told reporters today.
“The minimum wage is failing to provide basic economic security and a reasonable standard of living for millions of workers across the country,” said Sen. Cory Booker. “Thanks to the great work by NJPP, we know that raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would boost the pay of 28 percent of New Jersey’s workforce – that’s 1.2 million New Jerseyans. Raising the minimum wage is not only an important step toward ensuring that hardworking Americans are more fairly compensated for their work, but it’s also smart economic policy.”
By lifting the federal wage floor to $15 by 2024, the “Raise the Wage 2017 Act” would directly boost the take-home pay of 688,000 New Jersey workers, according to a new report by New Jersey Policy Perspective and the Economic Policy Institute. Another 481,000 would be indirectly affected; these are workers who earn as much as 15 percent more than the new minimum wage and would likely see their pay increase as well. Nearly all those who would benefit – 91 percent – are adults, and a majority – 61 percent – work full time.
“It is unacceptable that Americans can work 40 hours a week and live in poverty. For millions of families the minimum wage is not enough to pay the bills, put food on the table, and support their families,” said Rep. Frank Pallone. “By passing the Raise the Wage Act, we can bring about a pay raise for tens of millions of workers, raise living standards, lift millions of Americans out of poverty, and provide a much-needed boost to our economy.”
“No American who works full-time should live in poverty. But that’s exactly what’s happening all around us,” added Rep. Donald Norcross. “Working families are struggling to pay their bills and it’s well-past time we give these Americans a fighting chance by raising the federal minimum wage. The system now hurts our economy, hurts taxpayers and is morally offensive. When people finally receive $15 an hour, they’ll spend more, become less reliant on government assistance and give our economy a needed boost.”
New Jersey’s minimum wage is slightly higher than the federal level, at $8.44 an hour. But that’s still far less than what it takes to get by in the state today. In fact, the United Way of Northern New Jersey has found that, in 2014, the average “survival budget” in the Garden State required a single adult working full-time to earn $12.15 an hour. A “sustainability budget,” which includes additional expenses like modest savings and money for a cell phone, required an average statewide wage of $18.94 an hour in 2014 for a single adult working full-time. A bill to increase New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021 was passed by the legislature in 2016 but vetoed by Gov. Christie.
“Raising the federal minimum wage is by all means a sound idea to help families across America better make ends meet and begin a pathway into the middle class,” said Jon Whiten, Vice President of New Jersey Policy Perspective. “But is especially necessary in New Jersey, where the wages are still low but the costs of living – particularly housing – are very high. Garden State workers need a raise, and they need one now.”