The New Jersey Senate and Assembly have approved a bill (S3/A2162) that would raise the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour and base future increases on the consumer price index (CPI). The proposed measure now heads to Governor Chris Christie. If the Governor signs the bill into law, the wage increase would take effect on March 1, 2013, and the CPI provision would go into effect on January 1, 2014.

Republican lawmakers in New Jersey presented significant opposition to the proposed minimum wage hike. They contend that, as businesses in the state are still recovering from the economic impact of Hurricane Sandy, now is not the time for a minimum wage hike. Governor Christie may take the same view and veto the legislation.

Anticipating a potential veto, the Senate passed a concurrent resolution (SCR1) that would allow voters to consider a constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour with future increases tied to the CPI. The 2013 ballot initiative would not be subject to the Governor’s veto.

New Jersey’s minimum wage rate is the same as the federal rate. If the proposed increase to $8.50 passes, the Garden State would have the third-highest minimum wage in the U.S., with only Washington and Oregon employers paying higher rates. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are 10 states that have minimum wages that are linked to CPI.