Gopal bill grows minimum wage to $12/hour, calls for annual studies of effect

A new minimum wage bill slated to be introduced Monday by the state Senate would call for an immediate increase to $10.10 per hour and stops at $12 per hour before the state would analyze the impact to businesses.

The new bill, a copy of which was obtained by ROI-NJ, is sponsored by Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Ocean Twp.) and also includes carveouts for seasonal workers, the agricultural sector and tipped workers.

The bill also calls for:

  • A $10.10 wage in January;
  • Increases of $1.25 or $1 per hour until 2021;
  • The Department of Treasury would conduct five annual studies, beginning next year, of the impact of the raises on businesses;
  • Sets the tipped wage to $2.93;
  • Agricultural and seasonal wage not set, but should be “no less than” $9.25 per hour;
  • Includes exemption for employers with less than 50 employees who provide health benefits;
  • In January 2022, “employers of tipped employees can claim a credit for gratuities or tips received by employees against the hourly wage rate that would otherwise be paid to the employee.”

Gopal said the bill was crafted with attention to and input from the business community.

“I’m very concerned about small mom-and-pop business owners,” he said.

Which is why the bill stops short of pushing for the $15 minimum wage.

The jump to $10.10 next year is a steeper climb than the bill introduced by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge), which calls for the planned increase to $8.85 in January and a second jump in July to $9.55 per hour.

Gopal said many businesses he spoke with already pay $10 per hour, so it’s not a hard ask.

“I think it’s a good starting point,” he said. “I think everything is about getting a bill that goes across the state and, while I appreciate the governor’s (vision) and the leadership’s exemptions, I think we have to treat a corporation that is making record profits a little bit differently than a little coffee shop in Red Bank.”

Which is why the studies from Treasury would be so crucial.

“Let’s see, as we’re increasing over the next two years, what kind of impact it has for these (shop owners) that are on Main Street that are right now paying extraordinary rents,” Gopal said. “I think that’s how we should do legislation, is look at the impact of what we are doing.”

Read more from ROI-NJ on the minimum wage: