Saying it is unfair that women in New Jersey earn on average only 78 percent of what men do, Buono has made equal pay for women part of her “Plan to Lift Up New Jersey’s Women.” Her support for an increase in the minimum wage is part of that and she backs the current ballot question, which would raise to $8.25 the state’s minimum wage, currently the same as the federal $7.25, and automatically increase that each year based on an increase in the cost of living.
“People on the minimum wage, they can’t make it in this state,” Buono said during the candidates’ second debate, citing New Jersey’s status as one of the most expensive states in the nation to live. “They are on food stamps, they are living in public housing. So many of them have two jobs.”
NOW-NJ has endorsed Buono, calling her “a tireless champion for women’s rights.” In the same endorsement, Jennifer Armiger, chair of NOW-NJ’s Political Action Committee, rejected Christie by saying he “waged a relentless war against women by cutting funds for basic family planning and health services and rejecting an increase in the minimum wage.”
Christie conditionally vetoed a bill (A-2612) that Buono had cosponsored that would have raised the minimum wage to $8.50 this year and adjusted the rate annually. He suggested -- and the Legislature rejected -- an immediate increase of 25 cents, with another 75 cents phased in over the second and third years.
“I’m for a minimum wage increase, but one that was done responsibly and phased in over time,” he said during that second debate, adding that passage of the ballot question will force employers to lay off thousands of workers. “I’m opposed to people getting automatic raises every year regardless of the health of the business they work for or regardless of their performance.”
The New Jersey Business and Industry Association agrees.
“Tying increases in the minimum wage to increases in the cost of living disregards the underlying economic conditions employers face,” wrote Stefanie Riehl, assistant vice president of employment and labor policy, in the September issue of New Jersey Business magazine. “Minimum wage employees would receive increases just about every year, regardless of whether employers can afford them. This will force businesses to reduce hours, move people to part-time, or eliminate jobs altogether. Additionally, higher payrolls will force employers to charge higher prices, which will hurt people who can least afford them.”
New Jersey’s high cost of living means housing also is expensive and, in this area, neither candidate has said much publicly about helping low- and moderate-income residents be able to afford to live in the state.
“Gov. Christie has made multiple attempts to follow through on his campaign promise to remake the system into a sensible, predictable system that local governments can use to reasonably meet their affordable housing obligations,” Roberts wrote in an email.
“Entrenched Trenton special interests (particularly in the Assembly) and an activist Supreme Court has refused to allow these reforms to move forward at nearly every step,” he added.