By. Editorial Board
Ideally, Congress would raise the federal minimum wage above the paltry $7.25 an hour. But since there is little chance of that happening soon, it is up to the states to provide relief for low-wage workers. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have so far increased the minimum wage above the federal level. Tuesday will be New Jersey’s chance to do the same.
Voters in New Jersey should adopt a constitutional amendment (Public Question 2) that raises the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour starting on Jan. 1. If it is approved, more than 400,000 people now working at or near minimum wage could benefit. The amendment would also adjust the wage yearly based on inflation, as several other states do.
Gov. Chris Christie and the business community have opposed this amendment. Business leaders say, as they often do, that such increases would cost jobs. But a recent study by New Jersey Policy Perspective estimated that because the working poor spend virtually every extra dollar they earn, the increase in pay would add $175 million to the economy in 2014, most of it in New Jersey. Mr. Christie has said he supports a $1-an-hour increase phased in over three years, and vetoed a bill that raised the wage in one step. His approach is far too slow a pace to help people at the bottom of the economic ladder.
Other states have already moved to increase the wages for workers with the lowest incomes. New York has approved a law raising the minimum in steps until wages reach $9 an hour by the end of 2015. Washington State already has a $9.19 minimum. Vermont’s minimum is $8.60. California will go to $10 an hour by 2016. New Jersey residents should follow suit and help struggling families by voting Tuesday to raise the state’s minimum wage.