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June 24 — The minimum wage in New Jersey will rise to $15 per hour over the next five years unless Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoes a measure lawmakers approved June 23.
And if the measure is vetoed, Democratic lawmakers say they'll let the voters decide.
The New Jersey Senate approved legislation to increase the state's minimum wage from $8.38 to $10.10 per hour on Jan. 1, 2017. The measure would raise it further by at least $1.25 annually from 2017 to 2021, when it would reach $15.
New Jersey joins California, New York and Washington, D.C., in the march toward a $15 minimum wage, according to the National Employment Law Project, a New York-based advocacy group that publishes research on workers' issues.
Campaigns for a $15 minimum wage are also taking place in Baltimore, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont, the group says.
Christie is expected to veto the measure (S15/A15), which passed the Senate 21-18 after passing the Assembly 42-31 on May 26.
Democratic lawmakers once again vowed to put the question to voters in a proposed constitutional amendment if Christie vetoes the bill.
“Gov. Christie must sign this bill, but if he again fails New Jersey's working class, we again stand ready to take this issue to the voters,” Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D) said in a statement.
The bill could affect close to a million workers in New Jersey, according to both opponents and supporters.
New Jersey Policy Perspective, a think tank and advocacy group that supports the bill, estimates that about 975,000 workers, or 25 percent of the state's workforce, would see their wages go up.
Christie has 45 days to take action on the bill, the governor's spokesman, Brian Murray, told Bloomberg BNA June 24. While Christie hasn't made any formal statement on the bill's final passage, he has previously said the move would be bad for New Jersey.
“You ever see how this garbage happens? Like all of a sudden some nudnik in California goes fifteen bucks, that's the appropriate wage, and then everybody in the country goes yeah, $15,” Christie told the Southern New Jersey Chamber of Commerce in April, according to a transcript the governor's office sent to Bloomberg BNA June 24. “I mean it's just insane.”
The New Jersey Business & Industry Association had urged the legislature to reject the proposal, saying it would have a negative effect on small businesses and the New Jersey economy and force employers to raise prices and layoff workers or cut their hours.
If Christie vetoes the measure and Democrats put it on the 2017 ballot, it will be the second time in recent memory that New Jersey voters will weigh in on a constitutional amendment to change the state's minimum wage.
In 2013, New Jersey residents voted to approve a constitutional amendment that increased the state's $7.25 hourly minimum wage to $8.25 an hour, with continuing increases indexed to inflation.
By putting the question to voters in a constitutional amendment, Democratic lawmakers were able to bypass Christie, who had conditionally vetoed a bill to raise wages by $1.25 an hour.
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