N.J. minimum wage continues rapid rise, up to $12/hour (but it still trails N.Y.)

Wage, which was $8.85 for half of 2019, has increased 35% in past 18 months

New Jersey raised its minimum wage to $12 an hour Jan. 1 — one of 20 states across the country to raise the wage in some way for 2021.

In New Jersey, the $1 increase is another step toward the ultimate goal of $15 an hour. New Jersey raised the minimum wage from $8.85 to $10 an hour in July 2019 and then to $11 an hour Jan. 1, 2020. The state will continue to raise its minimum wage by a dollar an hour each year until it reaches the mark in 2024.

New York’s minimum wage increased to $12.50. Pennsylvania’s wage remained the same — at a low $7.25, though many businesses pay more than that.

California has the current highest statewide minimum wage, at $14. Seattle has the highest of any municipality, with almost all jobs requiring a wage between $15.75 and $16.39.

While business leaders called the pay raise another cost burden on business owners, Gov. Phil Murphy saluted the increase on Twitter.

“New Jersey is on a path to $15/hour and the #Fightfor15 movement is making strides nationwide,” he tweeted.

COVID-19 numbers

The state has announced more than 9,000 positive tests for COVID-19 in 2021.

On Saturday — reporting numbers for Jan. 1 — Murphy said the state had 5,528 new confirmed cases. On Sunday — reporting numbers for Jan. 2 — the state announced 3,676 more. All told, there have been 492,042 positive cases.

The state also announced 48 more COVID-19 fatalities this weekend, raising the overall total to 17,187 — though an additional 2,021 deaths are believed to be COVID-19 related.

There is some good news: The rate of transmission — often viewed as a better indicator of spread — is now at 0.92. Anything under 1.0 is good, as the rate of transmission marks the number of cases an existing case will bring.

Gun use in Newark

In a year that saw protest — and unrest — in nearly every major city in the country, Newark earned what could be a unique distinction: Not a single police officer fired his or her weapon during 2020.

Murphy, on Twitter, said it was “a remarkable milestone.”

“De-escalation training is proven and effective,” he tweeted.

The distinction will not be repeated in 2021. Hours into the new year, a Newark officer shot and killed an individual, according to Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

“Just a few minutes into the new year, some of our plainclothes Newark police officers arrived at a scene where shots were being fired, and an officer fired one round, fatally striking someone,” Baraka said in a statement.  “The Attorney General’s Office is leading an investigation and the officer is on administrative leave while the investigation is underway. Two firearms were also recovered and at least one arrest was made.”

Newark reported 51 homicides in 2020, the same number as 2019.

Final word

“Present.”

U.S. Rep. Mikie Sherrill was the only member of the New Jersey House delegation that did not cast a specific vote for Speaker of the House. Sherrill did not vote for Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2019, either. The other nine N.J. Democrats voted for Pelosi, who retained her speakership. The two Republican members (Chris Smith and Jeff Van Drew) voted for Kevin McCarthy.