With New Jersey’s minimum wage going up to $15 an hour, many people are praising it as a step in the right direction for the state’s economy.
Gov. Phil Murphy and his government sees it as a means to benefit residents and help them climb up into the middle class. Despite the increase, the wage won’t meet its goal until 2024. This leaves many residents waiting idly by as their wage increases year after year.
Murphy initially wanted to make the plan happen sooner, but faced huge opposition from members within his own party who said it would cause more harm than good by rushing into it. With this gridlock and to avoid a first-term state government shutdown, Murphy had to compromise in order to pass legislation on increasing the minimum wage.
“I’m sorry it took as long as it did, but I think we came up with a really good compromise,” said Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester. “It took forever, but we got it done.”
With the previous wage of over $8.60 per hour increasing to $8.89 per hour this past January, and an additional increase to $10 going into effect by July 1, this could be a positive step for the economy. With the increase of prices in basic commodities, it’s hard to make ends meet with minimum wages, especially when the wages have been stalled for a decade.
“Today we make our economy both fairer and stronger,” Murphy said.
These big increases in the minimum wage are needed to help close a wealth gap that has grown wider than median household income. With the top 10 percent having their household incomes increased to 40 percent over a three-year period, according to the Fed. This is no different than in New Jersey, where the state has one of the highest median incomes in the country, but only one out of 10 residents lives under the poverty line.
“The highest priority I had for 2019 was minimum wage getting to $15,” Murphy said. “As of today, we have that deal sealed.”
Advocacy groups say a $15 minimum wage enables workers to afford basic expenses in New Jersey while boosting consumer spending. Someone working 40 hours per week at $8.85 an hour will earn $354 per week, or $16,992 per year. With the increase to $15 an hour, this will grow to $600 per week and $28,800 per year.
With higher wages reducing employees’ desire to seek other higher-paying positions and years left until the new minimum wage reaches its peak, it will be interesting to see how New Jersey benefits.