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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - When voters head to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 5 for the general election, they will be asked their opinion on a few ballot questions that will amend the New Jersey Constitution, including one on whether to raise the minimum wage in New Jersey from $7.25 per hour to $8.25 per hour.
The interpretive statement for the question will explain: “This amendment to the state Constitution sets the state minimum wage at the level in effect under current law, or $8.25 per hour, whichever is more. Cost of living increases would be added each year. Also, if the federal minimum wage rate is raised above the state rate, the state rate would be raised to match the federal rate. Future cost of living increases then would be added to that raised rate.”
Voters will then be asked to vote yes or no on the question: “Do you approve amending the State Constitution to set a State minimum wage rate of at least $8.25 per hour? The amendment also requires annual increases in that rate if there are annual increases in the cost of living.”
With just a few weeks to go, opinions regarding the measure are clearly split down the middle between employers and employees.
NJ Workers Voices, an independent political action committee, stated that it believes raising the minimum wage will grow the state’s economy.
“More than 80 percent of workers benefiting from a wage increase are over the age of 20. Low wage earners are more likely to spend extra earnings immediately on previously unaffordable goods and services, having a direct positive impact on the local and state economy.”
One such worker is Jonathan Madden, 27, of Egg Harbor Township who is a crew member at the McDonalds in the Cardiff section of the township. He said he qualifies for Social Security benefits in addition to his minimum wage salary, but a wage increase would help him stabilize his future plans.
“Social Security Insurance comes once a month and is very much a necessity for my finances,” he explained. “I still live with my parents and pay them rent, which comes almost exclusively out of my SSI. If I didn't have SSI, the amount they ask for rent would take me three weeks of each month to earn (less in the summer, more in the winter). The amount of SSI I get each month is dependent upon the amount of money I make from my job, but I regularly get more from the state than McDonalds.”
He said if the rate increase is approved by voters, the additional money will enable him to get ahead a bit.
“I would hope that it would allow me more money to save up to try to get my own place,” he said. “I've been trying to save some, but between the small size of my paychecks and the social life I've been trying to have, it hasn't been happening.”
According to the business community, an increase to the minimum wage scale will be detrimental to the local economy.
“The Greater Atlantic City Chamber does not favor an increase to the minimum wage. After much discussion with and feedback from our members, we believe it would be a deterrent to job growth, and would, in fact, result in job losses. At a time when our region should be focused on job growth, we believe this measure would be counterproductive to that end,” according to Joe Kelly, president of the chamber.
New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Summer Survey of business leaders shows seven out of 10 think raising New Jersey’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour would damage the state’s efforts to retain and attract businesses, according to its website.
“We’re willing to address the minimum wage right now, but not this way,” stated Tom Bracken, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. “That’s not the right way to address this issue. The right way to address this issue is doing it the way it’s been done in the past; through the legislature.”
Fifty-three percent of the business leaders surveyed said it would have a harmful effect on their business, the site stated. An even larger majority (84.3 percent) said they don’t believe the state Constitution should be used to decide matters of policy such as the minimum wage.
“The business community does not want to see the New Jersey Constitution used to institutionalize private sector decisions,” stated Bracken. “If this ballot question is approved, annual raises would be automatically granted with no consideration to whether the economy is strong or weak, or whether the market warrants the increases.”
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