New Jersey Approves Minimum Wage Hike

Voters approved a constitutional amendment that increases the state's minimum wage to $8.25 and ties future increases to inflation.

An overwhelming majority of New Jersey voters approved a minimum wage hike on Nov. 5. The constitutional amendment raises the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25, with future increases tied to inflation. With the increase, New Jersey joins 18 states and the District of Columbia that currently have a wage floor above the federal minimum wage.

The New Jersey vote is part of a national conversation about how policy makers can reduce income inequality. In March President Barack Obama called on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour. In the months that followed, governors in New York and California signed legislation to raise their states’ minimum wages. Last night, initial election results showed that voters in the city of SeaTac, Wash., were on pace to approve a minimum wage hike to $15 for hospitality and transportation workers in and around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; as with the New Jersey measure, SeaTac’s wage increase would be indexed to inflation.

About 61 percent of New Jersey voters approved the wage hike, slightly below the level of support suggested by polling. Two September polls showed that a super majority of registered voters in New Jersey supported the ballot measure -- 65 percent according to Monmouth University Polling Institute and 77 percent according to Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics. Even a slight majority of conservatives (55 percent) -- who might be more sympathetic to pro-business arguments against increasing the minimum wage -- supported the measure, according to the Rutgers poll.

The state’s largest newspaper, The Star-Ledger
, endorsed the wage hike, as did labor unions and several Democratic elected officials, including now-U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. The New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce opposed the measure, arguing that an increase in wages would mean layoffs, increased costs to consumers and the relocation of some businesses to other states.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie rejected a version of proposal brought to him twice by the state’s General Assembly. Christie didn’t oppose a wage hike altogether -- he called for $1 increase that would go up incrementally over three years. He opposed the provision that tied future increases to inflation automatically.

J.B. Wogan is a Governing staff writer.