Gov. Murphy: ‘No plans at all’ to pause minimum wage hike
Gov. Phil Murphy says there are "no plans at all" to hit pause on an upcoming $1 hike in New Jersey's minimum wage, despite pleas from the pandemic-impacted business community for a delay of the costly change.
"We put this law into place, I signed it for a reason, and that is to get as many people out from under the poverty line as possible," the Democratic governor said during a Thursday press conference over Zoom.
With the law signed by Murphy in February 2019, the state's minimum wage is scheduled to rise by a dollar per year by 2024, up to $15 an hour. A hike in January 2021 would bring the state's hourly rate to $12.
Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said $1 may sound trivial to the public, but that dollar is multiplied by several employees per hour, as businesses also deal with new costs related to sanitation and personal protective equipment, and possibly less revenue due to mandatory COVID-19 restrictions.
"One dollar can be the difference between staying open and shuttering," Siekerka said.
Since before the law's passage, NJBIA has been an advocate for the concept of an "off-ramp" in the case of an economic emergency, such as what's being experienced now because of COVID-19. The association's push today is for the Legislature, or the governor if he has the power to do so, to delay the forthcoming wage hike for as long as New Jersey is in a state of emergency.
Assemblyman Gerry Scharfenberger, R-Monmouth, said a pause in the minimum wage hike would not only provide needed relief to businesses, but also protect the jobs of folks who are still employed during the pandemic.
"If these increases go through, businesses may have to make some decisions about cutting staff or cutting hours, or both," Scharfenberger said. "We have a small window in which we can help those on the brink of a fiscal catastrophe, but an immediate course of action needs to take place."
Gov. Murphy said he has plenty of sympathy for small businesses, but also "unending sympathy for folks who earn poverty wages."