HALL: New Jersey minimum wage must be raised

Asbury Park Press
Charles N. Hall Jr.

The crux of Michael Saltman’s July 19 column, “No automatic minimum wage hikes,” indicates that raising the minimum wage would have a disastrous effect on New Jersey’s economy. That simply could not be further from the truth and has little basis in reality.

He also confuses a minimum wage with a living wage, which are two very different things. A living wage is enough money to support yourself and your family. A minimum wage is the least amount a worker can be paid legally. If the federal minimum wage had kept pace with inflation when it was first created in the 1960s, the minimum wage would currently be more than $10 an hour.

The New Jersey Legislature last authorized a minimum wage increase in 2005 to $7.15 and it increased slightly to the current $7.25 when the federal minimum wage increased in 2009.

New Jersey, despite having a cost of living that is 30 percent higher than the national average, has the same minimum wage as the federal minimum. That is simply disgraceful.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2005 a gallon of milk cost $3.12 in New Jersey. In 2013, a gallon of milk cost $3.45. That’s a 10 percent increase with no corresponding increase in wages. This is just one example. Health care is more expensive, transportation is more expensive, housing is more expensive, groceries are more expensive.

After the governor vetoed legislation that would increase the minimum wage and provide for an annual cost-of-living adjustment, the Legislature authorized the measure to be placed on the November ballot for voters to decide.

Ten states have their minimum wage tied to an annual cost-of-living increase, without a negative impact on their economy or having to wait for their state legislature and governor to get around to approving another increase.

What Saltsman refers to as “autopilot” occurs in 10 states, so the purchasing power of the minimum wage is not diluted over time. That is just good policy to ensure the minimum wage keeps pace with the cost of expenses, and it has not had a negative effect in those states.

According to New Jersey Policy Perspective, approximately 429,000 New Jerseyans make at or near the minimum wage and would see an increase in pay.

Further, if this ballot measure were to pass, the direct economic impact would be more than $276 million. It is all of us who support New Jersey’s economy who stand to benefit.

Workers earning the minimum wage are the most likely to immediately spend that money on necessities for themselves and their families at local businesses. Also, a diverse group of New Jerseyans across all ethnicities and ages would benefit from a minimum wage increase.

Every year that we do not take action, more and more New Jerseyans fall further behind with less purchasing power for the money they earn. They work harder and work more jobs just to make ends meet.

It is incumbent on us to approve ballot question No. 1 on Nov. 5 and raise the minimum wage.

Raising the minimum wage is not a cure-all that will make all workers wealthy. But it is a start and it is the right thing to do to make things a little bit easier for those workers who need help the most.

Original article

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