BY MELISSA DELLACATO
On Nov. 5, New Jersey citizens voted “yes” to question two on the ballot, amending the state constitution to include a $1 minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $8.25 effective January 2014.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Meghan Clark, a 19-year-old liberal arts major at County College of Morris.
“People with minimum wage jobs are often college kids and they deserve some credit. We’re all trying to move up in the world.”
More than one million votes were cast, and 61 percent of them were in favor of the proposed amendment.
“Everything’s getting more expensive,” Clark said. “You have to compensate for the constant inflation.”
Another student, Angela Schooner, an 18-year-old early childhood education major, takes a similar stance.
“I think it’s good,” she said. “It’s giving people a chance to earn better incomes for families if they have to help them.”
Dr. Calvin Hoy, professor of economics, disagrees and anticipates an “unintended consequence” as a result of this.
“When it takes effect, people with jobs will keep them, but fewer people may get hired … because it went up,” he said. “I’m concerned about the effects on young people. I don’t think it’s going to help. It may make the unemployment number larger.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the youth unemployment rate is 22.2 percent.
“This is depression level,” Hoy said. “By raising [minimum wage], we may get further unemployment among youth. Is someone going to hire them who wouldn’t have when the minimum wage was $7.25?”
Hoy referred to the philosophy of John Stuart Mill, a philosopher and economist from the 19th century, to further explain his position on the issue.
“Mill argued ‘a case is not good unless it’s good in the extreme,’” he said.
In other words, Hoy explained, even if the minimum wage was $1 million dollars, it would still have negative effects. Since raising the minimum wage in the extreme is not good, it is not good in any form.
“Even if it’s raised a little, it could have a bad effect on some people,” Hoy said. “Some will gain and some will lose.”
The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 since 2009, according to the United States Department of Labor. While most states use this as their minimum wage, there are some who revise their state constitutions to change it.
The revised New Jersey Constitution reads: “Every employer shall, beginning the January 1 … pay each employee subject to the ‘New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law,’ … a wage rate of not less than the rate required by that act, or $8.25 per hour, whichever is more.”
According to nj.com, in 2012, Gov. Chris Christie dismissed the idea of a state constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage.
“That is just a stupid way to do it,” he said at a news conference in Long Branch, N.J. “That is not what the constitution is there for.”
He rejected a bill sent from the state Legislature to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 in January, and decided to let voters make the call in November.
Once the minimum wage increase goes into effect, New Jersey will have the fourth highest minimum wage rate in the nation, behind Washington, Oregon and Vermont.
“Some young people will get paid more; others won’t get jobs because of it,” Hoy said. “It is not a great instrument for alleviating poverty.”