Let’s make a deal: Murphy, legislative leaders reach minimum wage agreement

Gov. Phil Murphy announced he, state Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin have resolved their differences over a $15-per-hour minimum wage.

The legislation agreed upon by all three, which will need to go through the legislative process in both houses before being signed by the governor, provides a phased-in increase to $15 by 2024, except for seasonal employees and companies with fewer than five employees — which will reach $15 by 2026.

Farm workers have, as anticipated, a different timeline. They will reach $12.50 per hour in five years.

By March 2024, the New Jersey Labor Commissioner and Secretary of Agriculture will jointly decide whether to recommend that the minimum wage for agricultural workers increase to $15 per hour, to be instituted by Jan. 1, 2027, according to the bill.

“If they cannot come to an agreement, a third member, appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, will break the tie,” according to a joint statement Thursday.

“If there is a recommendation to disapprove of the scheduled increases or suggest an alternative pathway, the Legislature will have the ability to implement that recommendation by passage of a concurrent resolution.”

The agreement between the three top Democrats gets Murphy one step closer to achieving a campaign promise.

“Today, we are taking a historic step to provide more than 1 million New Jersey workers a stronger foothold in the middle class,” Murphy said in a statement. “No one working a full-time job should ever live in poverty. Putting the minimum wage on a clear and responsible path to $15/hour is good for workers, good for our businesses, and good for our economy. A higher minimum wage strengthens all of New Jersey. I thank Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin for their commitment to this issue, and look forward to signing this legislation into law.”

Sweeney (D-West Deptford) said the legislation puts New Jersey in the forefront nationwide.

“This plan will put New Jersey in the forefront of the national movement to build a high-wage economy,” he said.  The plan includes tax credits for employers who hire people with disabilities, which will support the further integration into the workplace of those with disabilities, giving them the opportunity for meaningful employment and providing employers with highly motivated workers. It also includes a ‘parity’ provision that will provide additional increases for small business and seasonal workers.

“As the increases take effect, we must be sensitive to the impact it will have on working people who are below the ‘safety net’ and could be at risk of losing benefits as their wages increase. We don’t want to see them harmed by lost benefits as they gain in wages.”

Coughlin (D-Woodbridge) said the raised minimum wage will make New Jersey more affordable for residents.

“We also took into consideration the concerns of our state’s valued small business community,” he said. “I thank Gov. Murphy and Senate President Sweeney for working with me so closely and tirelessly to ensure fairness for future generations of workers.”