New Jersey Republicans attempted to sideline a new proposal to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 from $7.25 an hour and provide annual cost-of-living increases.
The Budget Committee in the Democratically controlled House advanced the bill by a 7-6 vote, and the Senate is expected to deliver final approval next week, The Inquirer reports.
House GOP members cited the capacious storm recovery as a reason to wait on the bill, for fear the wage increase would add undue labor costs to storm damaged businesses.
In response, Sen. Donald Norcross (D-Camden) said boosting the minimum wage would benefit workers across the board.
"This is the exact time we should be giving them a little more," Norcross added. "I think jumping on the back of this storm to keep those people down is disgraceful."
New Jersey's battle is the latest installment in an on-going national campaign to raise the minimum wage.
Last week, economists reported that US wages have remained stagnant over the past ten years.
Holly Sklar, Director of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, adds that all sectors of the economy, including small businesses, are dependent on workers making a living wage. She writes:
Between 1938, when the federal minimum wage was first enacted, and 1968, when it peaked in value, the bottom 90 percent of households shared 69 percent of the nation's income growth. The middle class was able to grow.
The biggest problem for Main Street businesses is lack of customer demand. Low-income workers put pay increases right back into needed purchases at local businesses.
Last spring, Congressmen Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) introduced the “Catching Up to 1968 Act of 2012” (H.R. 5901) – legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $10 per hour, which has since stalled in the Republican-controlled House.