Crucial two days ahead in NJ for $15 minimum wage debate
A crucial two days are ahead in the debate over raising New Jersey minimum wage to $15 an hour – not to mention other looming priorities such as legalizing marijuana for adults.
Staffers for Gov. Phil Murphy and the Legislature’s top two Democrats are set to meet Wednesday. Then on Thursday, Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin plan to hold their first meeting in over two months.
Coughlin, D-Middlesex, last week introduced legislation that was quickly endorsed by Sweeney that would gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2024, though for farm, seasonal, young and small-business workers it would take until 2029.
At a Parsippany-Troy Hills news conference Tuesday, Murphy said he is glad there’s a bill and movement but reiterated that he wants changes to the proposal.
“Our precepts continue to be get to $15 responsibly, sooner than later, and get there with as many people, sooner than later, as possible,” Murphy said.
“Getting that limited both in its time as well as its size of that cohort would be objectives of ours,” he said. “But I’m an optimist. I’m a born optimist. And hopefully we’ll get something.”
Coughlin said he looks forward to the Thursday meeting with Murphy and Sweeney.
“The minimum wage bill I have introduced in the Assembly is a concrete first step to addressing the inadequate rate of our State’s current minimum wage,” Coughlin said. “I will continue to work with the members of my caucus to produce a balanced bill that is fair to workers and respects the business community.”
Murphy didn’t specify what changes he would accept. But he finally laid out some details from the minimum wage proposal he had made to lawmakers in May.
That plan included an $11 an hour minimum wage this year, increasing to $15 by 2022. It also included a slightly slower path to $15 for some workers, though Murphy says only for one-third as many as what the Legislature currently proposes.
Once those slower-tracked workers’ minimum wage reached $12.50 an hour, Murphy’s plan also would have given the state labor commissioner the ability to assess whether there had been adverse impacts. If not, he could speed up the raises.
Murphy says having two minimum wages isn’t perfect.
“But I also have to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good in getting a law signed,” he said.
Murphy addressed the issue Tuesday in a visit to Earth Friendly Products in Parsippany, which manufactures cleaning products and pays a $17 an hour minimum wage.