The Garbage State’s legislators must know when laws smell awful. Otherwise, New Jersey officials wouldn’t have approved a measure last week that will boost the state’s minimum wage from the measly, federally mandated $5.15 an hour to a more reasonable $7.15 an hour over the next two years.
Thankfully, they supported the bill, though here in the Commonwealth, and across most of the country, similar proposals have been repeatedly denied, forcing many in the workforce to earn wages that have not kept up with the rise of inflation over the past decade.
Our neighbor’s representatives, including Acting Gov. Richard Codey, who supported the act, understand the necessity of boosting the wage in order provide the working poor – college students, anyone? – with enough income to pay for skyrocketing real estate and insurance costs or equally ballooning utilities bills.
Opponents say the rate increase will immediately damage small businesses that can’t adjust to paying their workers higher salaries, claiming the law will spur massive layoffs or benefit cuts. But the increase is necessary, and will show businesses how difficult it is to manage small sums of money for myriad concerns.
Though some may be adversely affected by the increase, overall the law will have substantial long-term benefits and it will force companies to realize that they cannot legally continue doling out paychecks that are severely incompatible to the costs of current living standards.
To put discrepancies in pay versus expenses in perspective, Michael Panter (D-NJ) said it would take a person earning a minimum wage 153 hours to afford a moderately priced two-bedroom apartment. For those too far removed from Math 55, that’s 113 hours of overtime.
“It’s hypocritical to require our fellow residents to live at a wage we will not,” Panter said in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article, showing economic practicality that is hard to find in many states.
New Jersey’s new law, along with 13 other states that have raised the minimum wage, will hopefully act as a catalyst for Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell to include a similar proposal into his cache of pending legislation sometime in the near future.
Come fall, when the law is likely to take effect, it seems New Jersey will begin to look less like the armpit of America and more like the country’s brain.