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Despite High Cost of Living, New Jersey Has Yet to Bump Up Its Minimum Wage

The recession that allegedly ended in June of 2009 continues to plague the state of New Jersey. Now, Garden Staters are looking to Democrats in the legislature to fight for a minimum wage increase.

Despite the fact that the federal minimum wage is already $2.60 below where it should be, the cost of living is almost 30 percent higher in New Jersey than the national average, and eight states began 2012 by raising their minimum wage, New Jersey remains at $7.25.

The income gap is widening in New Jersey. Many residents enjoy higher wages due to the accessibility of New York City, but those who work locally as cashiers in grocery stores or in small neighborhood businesses must incur the same metropolitan spikes in cost while earning much less.

New Jersey state law requires a commission to review the minimum wage annually. This year’s review found no reason to raise it; this left many puzzled:

By state law, an appointed commission must assess the adequacy of the minimum wage each year, with the tie-breaking vote going to the commissioner of Labor. The latest report makes for some head-scratching moments. It found that the wage lagged badly behind the costs of necessities such as housing, health care and child care. It found the wage was way too low to support a family, and failed to account for New Jersey’s high cost of living, roughly 30 percent above the national average.

And then, by a 3-2 vote, the commission voted to let these unskilled workers eat cake. The wage remained unchanged.

Once considered a potential 2012 Presidential candidate, NJ Governor Chris Christie has not shown much empathy for the needs of New Jersey’s working class. Since becoming Governor, Christie has cut the earned income tax, raised bus fares and tolls, and barred parents from joining FamilyCare. A raise in the minimum wage would be a welcome boost to New Jersey families that need it most, so residents are calling anew for state Democrats to push the issue to the forefront of debate in Trenton.


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