New Jersey wants to raise its minimum wage from $8.60 an hour to $15. The raise would be incremental over several years.
The raise to $15 an hour, possibly by 2023, would help about one million workers and inject about $3 billion into the state's economy. It will not, as naysayers like to point out, kill jobs. In fact, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) said in a statement that since the state began raising the wage in 2014, it has added 93,000 jobs. "This proves that raising the minimum wage responsibly and incrementally will not cost jobs," he said.
It's still not even enough for the typical low-wage family to survive. According to New Jersey Policy Perspective, a family of four needs about $50,000 to have a reasonable standard of living.
Across the Delaware River, the working poor in Pennsylvania are still trying to get by on $7.25 an hour, a wage that hasn't been raised since 2008. It amounts to a full-time job paying $15,080 a year. It's lower than the poverty threshold of $24,858 for a family of four. The wage is not the only influence on poverty, but it is a factor, and the poverty rate in Pennsylvania is 13.3 percent compared with New Jersey's 10.9 percent.
The Keystone Research Center projects that raising the minimum wage in Pennsylvania to $15 would help 2.2 million workers and inject $9.1 billion into the state's economy. Even though voters say they want it, the legislators don't.
In a display of how little they care about the working poor, the taxpayers, and what anyone else thinks of them, the legislature just took a raise from an average $87,180 to $88,610, effective Saturday. 1. It is unconscionable that Pennsylvania's legislature — which held only 47 voting days in Harrisburg this year — won't provide real economic stimulus in Pennsylvania.
Increasingly, employers are recognizing that the $7.25-an-hour federal minimum wage is too low to attract good workers or for those workers to make a decent living. Amazon famously raised its base pay to $15 an hour and locally, the Cooper and Jefferson hospitals did the same.
Gov. Murphy and legislative leaders are still working out differences on the proposal. . The disagreement isn't that much of a big deal except for one issue: Sweeney wants to exclude teenagers and farm workers from the raise. That's unfair, and should be off the table.
If New Jersey can raise the wage, which will not only improve the quality of life for the working poor but inject billions into the economy, why won't Pennsylvania? Every year he has been in office, Gov. Wolf has written into his budget a raise in the minimum wage. And every year the legislature has ignored it.
New Jersey's action will provide a real-time test case of what can happen to poverty rates, employment, and the economy when the minimum wage is raised. We'll be periodically contrasting that to Pennsylvania's progress — but we're confident we can predict the outcome.