Democrats reject GOP plan in the Assembly helping businesses survive minimum wage hike

Democrats reject GOP plan in the Assembly helping businesses survive minimum wage hike

TRENTON, N.J. – During the Assembly floor debate, Assemblyman Hal Wirths offered his own minimum wage proposal as a substitute, one that would have cut business taxes and provided workers with an effective wage above $15 by 2023.

“I have a very reasonable bill accepted by the business community that will help the working poor get up to fifteen-dollars an hour,” said Wirths (R-Sussex), a former state labor commissioner. “It is a quicker and fairer bill.”

Wirths’ push for what he called “a fairer minimum wage bill” failed on the Assembly floor by a 52-23 vote along party lines.

WATCH: Wirths advocates for a fairer minimum wage plan
Wirths’ substitute bill would have phased-in the minimum wage to $13, double the earned income tax credit to 80 percent and double the employer deduction for compensation paid to 200 percent to help small businesses afford the pay hike. The deduction would only apply to minimum-wage workers for businesses with 100 or fewer employees, which is the definition used by the New Jersey Small Business Set-Aside Program.

The bill also would have frozen the minimum wage if there is a recession to mitigate layoffs and help businesses and the economy recover. The bill that ultimately passed the Assembly does not take into account economic cycles and the possibility of recession.

“It is critical that we have an off-ramp,” Wirths continued. “That is the most damaging thing about the bill on the floor right now; it’s that there is no off-ramp when we go into a recession.”

Multiple business groups have been advocating for the definition of small business to be larger than only five or fewer employees, and that the drastic increase in wages in spite of the phase-in will lead to higher prices, reducing staff or going out of business. They were also critical of ignoring the effects of a recession by not establishing a pause in the wage during an economic downturn.