TRENTON, N.J. – Assembly Republicans on the appropriations committee spoke against the minimum wage bill advancing through the legislature. Though they are not wholly opposed to a minimum wage increase, they say the Democrats’ plan is flawed and will be a net negative for the state economy.
“I asked every single member representing tens of thousands of businesses, ‘has this government done one thing to make New Jersey more affordable in the last year?’” said Assemblyman Hal Wirths about the testimony given at the Assembly Labor Committee hearing Thursday. “And, every single one of them said, ‘no’ unanimously and they went on that we’ve cost them a lot more money.”
Republicans were particularly critical of the Democrats’ decision to ignore economic cycles by not including a pause in minimum wage increases during a recession. They say increasing labor costs will exacerbate layoffs and make a full recovery even more difficult. New Jersey’s economy had the slowest recovery in the nation after the Great Recession.
“There is no economic trigger if there was a downturn and we had a recession and it’s needed in this particular legislation,” Assemblyman Kevin J. Rooney (R-Bergen) pointed out. “Right now this state is unaffordable and if you think it isn’t, you’re kidding yourself.”
A consistent theme during the hearing today was the cost of the minimum wage increase on state government. Particularly, the budget will need to compensate for the added costs of Medicare reimbursements to aid health care providers who can’t afford the minimum wage increase.
“I think we’ve kind of gone through this process thinking that we’re going to have a wonderful outcome here which could at certain points of time, have an adverse effect on the folks that you think you’re trying to help,” said Assemblyman John DiMaio (R-Warren).
DiMaio expressed concerns the increase would lead to skyrocketing Medicaid costs and nursing homes that will come back to haunt the state.
Representatives of county and municipal governments and school districts also lamented the costs of the minimum wage increase, which would directly increase effective property-tax rates.
“I have concerns with nursing costs associated with Medicare and Medicaid, cost of goods, season employees,” said Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce. “So we need additional discussion and we need additional amendments. We also need to offset by tax relief.”