By Sal Risalvato
When A-2162, a bill to increase the minimum wage to $8.50 and then tie future increases to the Consumer Price Index, first came before the Legislature, the New Jersey Gasoline, C-Store, Automotive Association (NJGCA) opposed it as an unnecessary and unaffordable burden on small businesses.
Raising the minimum wage by 17 percent and then creating mandatory increases going forward is simply bad for business, and we can’t forget that it’s private businesses that provide people with the jobs they so desperately need. Something that’s bad for small business is bad for workers too.
Enshrining automatic increases into state law ensures that businesses will feel this pain almost every single year going forward. Yearly wage increases can’t effectively be guaranteed any more than yearly profit increases. Over time these automatic increases will just result in more and more positions being eliminated, forcing more people onto the unemployment rolls and hurting the very individuals the increases were meant to help.
While ideally the minimum wage would not be increased at all, I also accept the need for and the importance of compromise in our political system. Gov. Christie’s plan satisfies many of the concerns I had with the original proposal by spreading the increase over the course of a more manageable three-year period and eliminating the automatic increases.
I ask the Legislature to immediately pass the governor’s compromise to remove the uncertainty surrounding wages that has certainly been keeping small business owners awake at night. There are aspects of this bill that will please both sides of the debate and upset both sides of the debate – a true compromise.
I sincerely hope that the Legislature does not reject this compromise in favor of a shortsighted attempt to permanently change our state’s constitution. When the economy is in a deep recession and unemployment skyrockets (as it did just a few years ago) or when a historic natural disaster strikes, the last thing businesses need are larger government-mandated expenses that can’t be changed because they have been enshrined in the constitution.
Sal Risalvato is the executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline, C-Store, Automotive Association (NJGCA), an organization representing 1,500 small businesses.