NEW BRUNSWICK — During his run for governor, Phil Murphy supported the call to raise the minimum wage in New Jersey to $15 an hour.

During a visit to a New Brunswick soup kitchen on Thursday, Murphy reiterated his support for the minimum wage hike.

“A stronger economy is underpinned by good jobs at better wages," he told the crowd. "A stronger economy no longer looks the other way as income inequality increases. A stronger economy relies on more people being able to be full participants in its growth and expansion.”

Murphy, who toured Elijah’s Promise soup kitchen with Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said “it is antithetical to our values that we allow anyone who works 40 hours a week to be mired in poverty. If we are to be believed that we value an honest day’s work, then we must ensure a wage that similarly values an honest day’s work.”

Coughlin said work continues on a minimum wage bill that will be fair to both workers and business owners.

“We recognize that we have to be responsible with the business community and work to make sure we don’t destabilize that as we phase in the minimum wage increase," Coughlin said.

When reporters asked Coughlin about the specifics of the legislation, he said: “We’re in the formulation phase; we need to take a look at everything. There are, as you know, differing views.”

He said he looks forward to working the State Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, on the legislation.

Murphy agreed that the best way to achieve a $15 minimum wage is to phase it in.

“We gotta be careful of the sticker shock. You can’t get there, you can’t make that leap overnight, so this has to be phased in over a series of years.”

After the governor’s news conference, New Jersey Business and Industry Association President and CEO Michele Siekerka issued the following statement:

"Any pathway to raising the minimum wage must take into consideration the impact these actions will have on our small business owners, who are the backbone of our communities and our downtowns.

"Many of our members have already told us they will not be able to absorb a significant increase in the minimum wage without reducing staff, hours or benefits, raising prices or automating. As such, and as we heard in today's press conference, the pathway must be a gradual phased-in one affording our job creators predictability and the ability to keep up with the continuing rising costs of running their business.

"Further, raising the rate at the entry level means resetting the rate for other workers across the board. Concerns about wage compression are real and can create inequitable pay differentials between low-skilled workers and trained or experienced ones.

"Finally, because higher skill levels demand higher wages, NJBIA strongly feels that job training should be a key aspect in any discussion regarding increasing the minimum wage.

"NJBIA will continue to advance a dialogue that calls for a gradual phase in of any increase and appropriate exemptions to address youth and training wages, as well as various industry sectors that will be hard pressed to carry the burden of the cost increase."

Tom Bracken, the president of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, also issued a statement:

“Governor Murphy’s and Speaker Coughlin’s comments on increasing the minimum wage to $15 reflect the Governor’s vision for a fairer economy in New Jersey.

"The NJ Chamber agrees that any minimum wage increase must be phased in over a reasonable period of time so businesses can plan accordingly and absorb the financial impact.

"In addition, as we have said many times, the unintended consequences of this legislation must be fully vetted with all stakeholders and the impact of this increase must be analyzed against its effects on certain types of businesses, industry sectors and non-profits.

"The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce believes that actions taken to ensure a fairer economy must be balanced with actions taken to ensure a stronger economy.”

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