Murphy and Coughlin Party Together on $15 Minimum Wage

NEW BRUNSWICK – Two of the pledges Phil Murphy made when he ran for governor last year were raising the minimum wage and legalizing marijuana.

While progress has been slow on both initiatives, Murphy strongly recommitted himself Thursday to increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“We’re ready to take this one on,” Murphy said at a press conference at Elijah’s Promise, a city soup kitchen.

Murphy spoke in a hot and stuffy room filled with press, social activists and like-minded politicians, including Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin of Middlesex County.

There are really no new arguments to be made about increasing the minimum wage. The arguments you hear today are the same ones people heard 40 or so years ago when the minimum wage was $2.50 an hour. It’s now $8.60.

In short, supporters say an increase is needed to help low income people make a living. They also know full well that increasing wages at the bottom tends to push all wages a bit higher.

And that is what many business groups fear – a forced escalation in wages that surpasses generated revenues.

To be fair, however, one must acknowledge the reality of growing income inequality and recent federal tax cuts that significantly reduced the corporate tax.

Still, for Democrats, who control both houses in Trenton, this is really a matter of will.

Murphy and Coughlin talked Thursday about putting legislation together soon that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

But not all at once.

The governor said it would rise incrementally and probably would take “three or four years.”

Murphy said he wanted to debunk critics who claim increasing low-level pay would hurt some businesses in particular and the economy in general.

He said higher pay would help businesses by increasing morale and reducing turnover.

The governor also contended that a higher minimum wage would benefit the overall economy as well, noting that workers who receive more money would be prone to spend it.

“We want families to thrive,” Murphy said.

Murphy and the Democrats are on safe political ground here.

About 60 percent of voters backed raising the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 in a 2013 referendum. That measure also tied annual increases in the wage to the Consumer Price Index, which is why it is $8.60 today.

Democrats went the referendum route five years ago when they were unable to reach a compromise on the issue with then-Governor Chris Christie.

One of the unintended consequences of Christie’s departure is that Democrats no longer have anyone to blame.

Like making pot legal, increasing the minimum wage easily could have been done five months ago if Democrats opted to do so. It’s true that the budget impasse between Murphy and legislative leaders got in the way, but that’s no longer an excuse.

To use one of the sport references the governor likes, on both pot legalization and the $15 minimum wage, it’s the Democrats who are calling signals.

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One response to “Murphy and Coughlin Party Together on $15 Minimum Wage”

  1. These two clowns will destroy 1st rung employment in NJ. The minimum wage is NOT suppose to be a living wage and never was! Those now making $15 will want $25, those making $25 will want $35 an so on, which is truly harm businesses in New Jersey! Obvious, these two economic illiterates never took any courses in economics!

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