After two key legislative committees moved legislation this week to increase New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021, representatives of the Patriotic Millionaires – a group of 200 high-net-worth Americans who are committed to building a more prosperous, stable, and inclusive nation – joined New Jersey Policy Perspective in applauding these first steps towards a livable wage for nearly 1 million Garden State working people.
“All businesses will be able to make more money when so many of their customers get raises, truly strengthening the economy,” said Chair of the Patriotic Millionaires Morris Pearl, Former Managing Director of BlackRock.
“With New Jersey’s post-recession job growth among the slowest in nation, millions of residents unable to make ends meet and a growing wealth gap between those at the very top and the rest of us, it’s clear that the state urgently needs a course correction,” added Jon Whiten, Deputy Director of New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP). “We need to shift from the failed trickle-down agenda to prioritize economic policies that work for all New Jerseyans. Bringing the minimum wage closer to a living wage is a big part of that.”
Approximately 1 in 4 New Jersey workers, or 975,000 men and women, would get a raise under the legislation cleared by committees this week, according to a March report from NJPP. The analysis, which explored the characteristics of New Jersey workers earning less than the equivalent of $15 an hour in 2021 – or less than $13.16 in 2015 dollars, found that nearly all are adults, most work full time, many are relatively well educated and many are raising children.
As NJPP policy analyst Brandon McKoy noted in his testimony this week, despite the tired old claims lobbed by opponents of fair wages, there is no correlation between raising wages and job losses. On the contrary, increasing the minimum wage spurs economic activity as people working low-wage jobs have more money to spend on their daily needs. That’s why many of the Patriotic Millionaires who are small business owners advocate for raising the wage.
“I am sick and tired of business owners complaining that their business will not allow them to raise their employees’ wages to a level that they, the employees, can actually live on,” said Vice Chair of the Patriotic Millionaires Stephen Prince, CEO of Sterling Card Solutions. “What they don’t want to recognize is that they have created a situation that is forcing their employees to invest in the business that they own, but the employees get no investment return.”
And while some legislators have raised concerns about how much a minimum wage increase might cost the state itself, which employs – both directly and through contractors – some low-wage workers, the fact remains that an economy built on low-wage work relies on a hefty amount of government funding to help make these working people make ends meet. In New Jersey, state taxpayers contribute approximately $726 million a year to public assistance and safety net programs for workers who aren’t paid enough to get by. (The real cost is almost certainly much higher, since the estimate does not take into account the state’s share of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and because the data used to arrive at the figure is prior to New Jersey’s 2013 decision to expand Medicaid.)
“The low, unlivable minimum wage that exists now isn’t working,” said Patriotic Millionaire Lawrence Benenson, Principal at Benenson Capital Partners. “Raising the minimum wage will create healthier, happier, more productive people.”
Raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2021 would boost the economic security of many working people across the state, who are paid so poorly they cannot get by in high-cost New Jersey. A single adult New Jerseyan working at minimum wage needs to work at least 66 hours a week just to earn enough to afford basic needs. In order to have a more stable household budget, that same worker would need to work at least 94 hours a week.
“The shameful fact that full-time work isn’t enough to lift a New Jerseyan out of poverty should be enough to convince everyone in the state to raise the minimum wage,” said NJPP’s Brandon McKoy. “In order to have a prosperous New Jersey, we need to restore the strength of our working and middle classes. Raising the wage is a crucial step to help get us there.”
About the Patriotic Millionaires
The Patriotic Millionaires are a group of 200 high-net-worth Americans who are committed to building a more prosperous, stable, and inclusive nation. The group focuses on promoting public policy solutions that encourage political equality; guarantee a sustaining wage for working Americans; and ensure that millionaires, billionaires, and corporations pay a greater percentage of taxes.
About New Jersey Policy Perspective
New Jersey Policy Perspective drives policy change to advance economic justice and prosperity for all New Jerseyans through independent research, analysis and advocacy. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, founded in 1997, is based in Trenton.