State panel pushes minimum-wage boost to $8.25 per hour The Associated Press Friday December 21, 2007, 9:03 AM A state commission has recommended that New Jersey immediately increase the minimum wage to $8.25 per hour and then boost it annually to keep pace with inflation. New Jersey's minimum wage is $7.15 per hour. The Minimum Wage Advisory Commission, in its first report since it was created by legislators two years ago, determined it should be increased to $8.25 per hour followed by cost-of-living adjustments each year. The minimum wage increase would have to be approved by the Legislature and Gov. Jon Corzine. It would give New Jersey the nation's highest minimum wage, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The state panel found the $7.15 per hour level is no longer adequate to maintain the same purchasing power as when it was implemented in October 2006. "New Jersey's minimum-wage workers are struggling to make ends meet," said Labor Commissioner David Socolow, the chairman of the Minimum Wage Advisory Commission. "Without an immediate increase in the minimum wage and annual cost-of-living increases every year these workers fall even further behind." At $7.15 per hour, a minimum wage worker earns about $2,000 less than the federal poverty level of $17,160 per year; an $8.25 per hour wage would bring that worker even with the poverty level. New Jersey would be the 11th state to automatically increase their minimum wage based on inflation rates. Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington already have such a policy. "Minimum-wage workers in New Jersey need a raise and a real opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty through their hard work," Socolow said. However, some say the increase would be too much, too soon. "Small businesses that rely on entry level minimum wage employment simply cannot afford this increase in a single step," said Philip Kirschner, president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. "As these businesses struggle to try to cope with other rising costs such as energy and transportation, they simply can't afford a 55 percent increase in wages over three years." In 2005, the state's minimum wage started at $5.15 per hour. The Legislature increased it to $6.15 per hour that year, then to $7.15 per hour in 2006.