This November, New Jersey voters will have the opportunity to vote on an increase to the state minimum wage. The ballot referendum also would authorize an amendment to the New Jersey State Constitution to link future minimum wage increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
After Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill in February that would have raised the New Jersey minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50, and based future increases on the CPI, both houses of the New Jersey legislature approved the referendum (SCR1) for November’s ballot. The referendum will allow the voters to consider a minimum wage increase of one dollar, raising the wage rate to $8.25, as well as a New Jersey Constitution amendment tying future increases to the CPI. The referendum also provides that if the federal minimum hourly wage rate is raised to a level higher than the state minimum wage rate, the state rate will increase to match the federal rate.
If approved by New Jersey voters, the minimum wage would rise to $8.25 on January 1, 2014, with future annual adjustments based on the CPI starting in September 2014. New Jersey last increased its minimum wage, from $7.15 to $7.25, in 2010, when the federal minimum wage rate also was raised.
The ballot referendum will read:
Do you approve amending the State Constitution to set a State minimum wage rate of at least $8.25 per hour? The amendment also requires annual increases in that rate if there are annual increases in the cost of living.
Governor Christie and other critics of the wage increase believe small and midsize businesses may not be immediately ready to take on the burden of a full dollar wage increase all at once, particularly as the state continues its economic recovery from Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast on October 29, 2012. The Governor originally sent the vetoed bill back to the legislature and suggested phasing in a one dollar increase over three years and eliminating the provision tying the wage to inflation. However, the legislature opted to put the issue to the voters.