Gov. Phil Murphy and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said they hope to move a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour — phased in over a few years — sometime this fall.
“We’re ready to take this on,” Murphy said. “The reason for this is, quite frankly, is very simple. A stronger economy is underpinned by good jobs at better wages. A stronger economy no longer looks the other way as income inequality increases.”
Coughlin said he believes a bill can be crafted to pass the Assembly, but acknowledged some challengers to details like exemptions.
In 2013, New Jersey voters approved a referendum raising the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour, plus cost of living adjustments that brought that number to the current rate of $8.60.
While the referendum passed statewide with 61% of the vote, after then-Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the original bill.
Despite the lopsided margin, the vote was actually closer in parts of the state where Democrats are now seeking to pick up seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Voters in Morris, Somerset, Sussex, Warren and Cape May counties just narrowly approved the referendum, while Hunterdon rejected it decisively.
Murphy said he did did not think a fall debate on raising the minimum wage would negatively impact candidates like Mikie Sherrill, Tom Malinowski and Jeff Van Drew.
“I think we’re in a very different world five years later. There’s enough experience around the country to see how this actually has impacted communities, the business community, Murphy said. “I think there’s enough evidence that you can stand up and say ‘you know what, this makes sense’ even in a more purply part of the state.”