Sun Editorial: Don’t kill jobs, businesses by rushing the minimum wage increase

With a Democratic governor and legislature in January, it’s going to happen. However, it is worth talking about how soon it will happen.

By Alan Bauer
The Sun

The minimum wage in New Jersey leaps, OK, hops, from $8.44 an hour to $8.60 an hour on Jan. 1 due to inflation. Come Jan. 16, however, the move to significantly boost the wage will begin.

Phil Murphy will be sworn in as the next governor on Jan. 16, and he has prioritized hiking the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Since the Democrats also control the Legislature, it’s a super safe bet the wage will increase on some timeline to some level. There’s no point in debating the merits of such a move, it’s going to happen. However, it is worth talking about how soon it will happen.

We hope, for the sake of business owners, and even many minimum wage workers, the race to $15, while not a leisurely stroll through the park, is more like a neighborhood 5k than an Olympic qualifying heat.

Businesses’ first response to a higher minimum wage will be, naturally, to cut costs (i.e. jobs) as raising prices might drive customers to competitors. Hence, a quick spike in the wage could lead to a quick spike in layoffs.

However, a super-long delay kind of defeats the purpose of raising the wage, as supporters who want something close to resembling a living wage in place as soon as possible will point out.

Lawmakers should Goldilocks this thing: aim for the porridge that isn’t too hot or too cold.

Establish a timeline that makes meaningful progress toward $15 an hour, but doesn’t immediately force business owners to layoff half their workforce just to keep their doors open. Give them time to work the increases into their budgets, find efficiencies in areas other than payroll and, in a nutshell, survive.

The goal should be to not destroy small businesses, and jobs, while raising the minimum wage.