New Jersey vote puts minimum wage hikes in state constitution

by Tammy Binford

The ballot question making changes to New Jersey’s minimum wage was presented to voters in the November 5 election and passed easily, but many business leaders are uneasy about the change.

By a 60-40 percent vote, voters passed Public Question 2, which will raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour on January 1, 2014. In addition to the $1 increase, the ballot question will amend the New Jersey constitution to ensure that the state minimum wage will automatically rise with inflation.

The constitutional change concerns many in the business community. An organization called the Coalition to Preserve Jobs and Our Constitution was among the ballot question’s opponents. The group’s website outlines opposition to changing the constitution.

“Both Republicans and Democrats—including those who otherwise support an increase in the minimum wage—have spoken out against this irresponsible and harmful proposal, which runs counter to serving the ‘public good’ as the constitution requires,” the website states.

Governor Chris Christie, who easily won reelection on November 5, also spoke out strongly against putting minimum wage increases in the state constitution, calling it “irresponsible” and “a truly ridiculous idea.”

The effort to amend the constitution was launched after Christie vetoed a bill that would have raised the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour with annual inflation adjustments.

A future issue of New Jersey Employment Law Letter will offer more information on the change to the state’s minimum wage.