Asbury Park Press

NJ Minimum Wage Hike Criticized By Business Groups

Asbury Park Press — Friday, October 4, 2013

Written by
David P. Willis

SEASIDE HEIGHTS — With a burned-out portion of the Seaside Heights boardwalk as a backdrop, business leaders warned that a proposal to hike the state's minimum wage by a buck — and to tie future yearly increases to inflation — will cost jobs.

Pro-business groups including the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses are urging residents to vote against a ballot measure in November that would amend the state's constitution to include annual increases in the state's minimum wage, tied to the national Consumer Price Index. It also would tack $1 on the current hourly minimum wage, raising it from $7.25 to $8.25.

"It's coming at a bad time," said Bob Stewart, owner of Flashbacks, a retro-arcade at the Funtown Pier, which was destroyed by last month's fire.

Half of his 20 employees during the summer, all teenagers about 14 years old, are paid at the minimum wage. The remainder of his employees, who are older, make about $15 an hour, he said.

"I teach them and they come along and they get raises," Stewart said. "I wouldn't be able to employ those kids. I wouldn't start bringing them up and bring them around at 14 years old if I had to pay them more. I wouldn't be able to afford it."

It would mean he would rely more on his older, higher-paid, employees, he said.

Voter support for hike

The business groups, which have united into an organization called Coalition to Preserve Jobs and Our Constitution, held a news conference Thursday as a recent poll showed strong support for the minimum wage hike.

A recent Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press Poll found that 65 percent of registered voters supported the hike in the minimum wage. Twelve percent disapproved, while 22 percent were undecided.

"They don't understand the issue," said Laurie Ehlbeck, NFIB's New Jersey director. "What we've been working on is educating the voters so they understand the consequences of a minimum wage increase, every year, forever, and how it is going to affect our economy."

Thomas Bracken, president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, said the concern surrounds tacking an annual increase into the state's constitution. "If this goes into our constitution, we will be the only state in the country that has this issue in the constitution," he said. "That is not a good place to be No. 1, trust me."

He warned the measure would:

But New Jersey Policy Perspective, which supports the increase, said it will give hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers a better shot of success and help the economy.

"The sky won't fall, jobs won't be lost and the economy won't collapse if we treat workers who are our struggling to get by in this high-cost state with respect," said Gordon MacInnes, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, in a statement.

New Jersey Main Street Alliance, a network of 1,400 small businesses put together by the liberal group New Jersey Citizen Action, said a boost will put more money in workers' pockets, enabling them to spend more. "Business owners who work shoulder-to-shoulder with their employees know them and care about them - and they also know that $7.25 isn't enough to live on in New Jersey," said Corinne Horowitz, business representative.

But Bracken said increased spending would only amount to about a tenth of 1 percent of the state's overall economy.

Top Top | NJCA in the News | NJCA Homepage