Today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie rejected a measure that would have gradually increased the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2021 for nearly 1 million low-wage workers. In response to this, Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, issued the following statement:
“Gov. Christie’s veto displays a wrongheaded approach to pressing economic issues, and puts him at odds with the 73 percent of New Jerseyans of all political stripes and demographic characteristics who support raising the minimum wage to $15—including an overwhelming majority of Independents and a substantial share of Republicans.
“Since November 2012, when the Fight for $15 began, more than 50 states and localities have raised their minimum wage, including the 16 jurisdictions which have approved wage floors of $15. Stagnating paychecks and gridlock in the U.S. Congress are among the factors which have compelled legislatures and voters across the country to take action on the minimum wage. Had Gov. Christie signed the minimum wage bill, New Jersey would have made history by becoming the third state to enact a statewide $15 minimum wage.
“New Jersey’s minimum wage is $8.38 per hour, translating to less than $17,000 a year for full-time year-round work. As a result, many working families are struggling. Over one-third (34 percent) of New Jerseyans earn under $15 per hour, and many have to rely on public assistance to make ends meet. Over 634,000 New Jersey workers and their children are enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP to afford medical care, and 159,000 use food stamps to put food on the table. With a $15 minimum wage, many of these workers would be able to better afford the basics, and many would be on a path to self-sufficiency.
“Although Gov. Christie’s veto of a $15 minimum wage is unfortunate, advocates and voters in New Jersey will have another opportunity to put the state on the right economic path. Plans are underway to place the minimum wage on the 2017 ballot, and with momentum continuing on the side of the low-wage workers, this new proposal will likely succeed at the polls.
“The National Employment Law Project commends New Jersey lawmakers who pushed the $15 minimum wage bill forward, and encourages minimum wage advocates to continue their hard work in 2017.”