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NJ Assembly panel advances bill phasing in $15 minimum wage

January 24, 2019

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey lawmakers on Thursday advanced a bill to hike the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024.

The Democrat-controlled Assembly Labor Committee approved the measure Thursday after roughly three hours of comment from both opponents and advocates.

The measure looks destined to become law since Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin — all Democrats — announced a deal on the wage last week .

Even so, several opponents voiced concern with the proposal. In addition to the state’s big business advocacy groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, smaller businesses said they were anxious.

James Link and his wife Judy operate a roller skating rink in southern New Jersey. He said the measure would make it tough for them to compete and keep the business that’s been in Judy’s family for years afloat.

“One of the things you have to understand is roller skating is a recreation,” James Link said. “Anyone who competes for recreation dollars has got to do what they’ve got to do as efficiently as they can.”

Supporters said the bill would buoy workers and communities, where the higher wages would likely be spent.

“It will help one million workers, make New Jersey a real competitor for workers in our region again and inject nearly $4 billion into our economy,” said Brandon McKoy, the director of government and public affairs at the left-leaning think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective.

Thursday’s hearing was the public’s first chance to comment on the bill containing the deal, and the hearing saw dozens of people pack the committee room.

New Jersey would join California, Massachusetts and New York phasing in a $15 hourly wage if it’s enacted.

The proposal would raise today’s rate from $8.85 to $10 by July 1, climbing by $1 annually until reaching $15 in 2024 for most, but not all workers.

Farm workers’ wage will climb to $12.50 over five years, for example. Small businesses with and seasonal employees would see their minimum wage reach $15 an hour in 2026. Tipped workers, who currently have a minimum hourly wage of $2.13, would see it climb to $5.13 an hour by 2024.

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