Christie rejects $15 minimum wage in New Jersey

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Tuesday a veto of a proposed minimum wage hike to $15 per hour by the Democratic-led state legislature.

Mel Evans/AP
Gov. Chris Christie points to portraits of former governors as he reacts to a question from the media. On Tuesday, the New Jersey governor announced a veto of a minimum wage hike to $15 per hour, proposed by the Democratic-led state legislature.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed a bill to increase his state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, saying it would hurt small businesses.

The partisan fight in the Garden State marks another step in the country’s ongoing search to boost opportunities for low-wage workers.

In New Jersey, debate was largely partisan, with a Republican governor offering a strong rebuttal to a Democratic legislature’s wage proposal on the grounds that the state is still recovering from economic downturn, NJ.com reported.

"All of this sounds great, raising the minimum wage, when you're spending someone else's money," Mr. Christie said, speaking from a Pennington, N.J., grocery store on Tuesday. "It should bother you because when you come into Pennington Quality Market your food is going to be more expensive." 

Christie also cited threats made by fast food executives that such dramatic wage increases would spur automation and cost jobs altogether.

“It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who’s inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries,” said Ed Rensi, the former chief executive and president of McDonald’s USA, in an interview on Fox's “Mornings with Maria.”

“It’s going to cause a job loss across this country like you’re not going to believe.” 

The movement toward raising the minimum wage has received patchy support so far. New York, California, and cities around the country have instituted $15-per-hour minimum wage plans, seen as a dramatic but compassionate experiment to bring relief to workers left behind by rising prices and stagnant pay, as Jessica Mendoza reported for The Christian Science Monitor:

Partly driving the push for a higher wage floor is the argument that raising wages would help “undo all the wage inequality that has happened in the last 45 years,” says David Cooper, a senior economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a liberal research group based in Washington. Indeed, he notes, factors such as inflation and rising costs of living means that “in real terms the average wage peaked more than 40 years ago: The $4.03-an-hour rate recorded in January 1973 has the same purchasing power as $22.41 would today,” as the Pew Research Center reports.

In these places, where the economy has seen more growth, lawmakers looking to equalize the gains see it as a risk worth taking.

“If California does this and its economy continues to thrive, then it could potentially shift the norms around minimum wage policy,” Mr. Cooper told the Monitor.

But states such as Alabama, Idaho, and North Carolina have kept their wages at the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour, even lower than New Jersey, which raised wages via referendum in 2013.

Some worry this inconsistency will stoke inequality among the various states, but others say the creative solutions the individual states will develop can help point to solutions in a complicated problem that still lacks a template for success.

“I think there’s something very positive about states being able to experiment and go beyond what the country has, to see on a smaller scale how something works,” Chris Tilly, the director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Monitor. “On some level, you could view the states as laboratories of democracy, and hope that the country as a whole draws some lessons.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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