Gov. Chris Christie Vetoed Minimum Wage Bill Over 25¢ Dispute

Gov. Chris Christie
We all knew it couldn’t last forever. When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie praised President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy efforts, we all collectively shook our heads in disbelief. When he set aside partisan politics to work across the aisle to assist hurricane survivors, we praised him. He was fighting for the poor and indigent in his state (as well as those who desperately needed post-hurricane assistance) against the wishes of his Republican counterparts. Alas, that’s all history now as is seems Christie has returned to Republican-reality. In a stunning display of partisan politics, Gov. Christie vetoed a minimum wage bill that would have increased New Jersey’s minimum wage to $8.50. The kicker? He would have been fine had it been $8.25, apparently. 
According to the SFGate, this was Christie’s reasoning behind his decision to deny the working poor even a modest increase in pay:

Christie’s conditional veto returns the bill with the suggestion that lawmakers scale back the increase by 25 cents, to $1 per hour and phase it in over three years in increments of 25 cents the first year, 50 cents the second year and 25 cents the third year. Christie also rejected the idea of implementing automatic annual adjustments while encouraging the Democratic-led Legislature to restore a tax credit to the working poor. 

“The sudden, significant minimum-wage increase in this bill, coupled with automatic raises each year tied to the United States Consumer Price Index, will jeopardize the economic recovery we all seek,” Christie said in his veto message. “We can only build our State’s earnings if we foster an environment that lifts up the working poor and struggling small businesses alike.”

The pain felt by the working poor in New Jersey – a state with a cost of living 30% higher than the national average – seems almost palpable According to New Jersey Policy Perspective
Here are the facts. The bill conditionally vetoed today by the governor would have provided a crucial boost to New Jersey’s low-wage workers and to its ailing economy.
It would have immediately stimulated New Jersey’s economy
• Wages would have increased by $439 million in the first year
• Overall economic activity would increase by $278 million in the first year
• The equivalent of 2,420 new full time jobs would be created

It would increase wages to many New Jerseyans
• 537,000 people would have received an increase in wages: 307,000 New Jerseyans making between $7.25 and $8.50 per hour would’ve seen an immediate raise, and 230,000 New Jerseyans making between $8.50 and $9.75 per hour would’ve seen a raise as pay scales were adjusted upwards.
Many families with children would benefit
• It would have benefited 127,245 parents
• 279,815 children have at least one parent that would have be affected

Most potential beneficiaries are educated but can’t find a higher paying job
• 76% have at least a high school diploma
• 39% have some college or a college degree

These low-wage workers are a diverse group
• 46% are White, 13% are Black and 34% are Hispanic
• 56% are women and 44% are men

Most of these workers are adults, not teenagers

• 85% are 20 years old or older
Many are working full time
• 78% are working either full time (35+ hours a week) or mid time (20-34 hours a week). Only 21% are working part time (19 or fewer hours a week)
Democratic reactions to the veto came hard and fast in condemning the action. Senator Barbara Buono said, “It’s a sad day for the middle class.” I guess that 25 cents was too much of a compromise for Christie in ensuring the working poor in his state can pay for things like rent and food. Welcome back to the wonderful world of Republican Governor Chris Christie.

Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.


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