Gov. Chris Christie vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have gradually raised New Jersey’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, thwarting a Democratic effort being tested around the country.
New Jersey would have become the third state to raise the hourly wage to $15, after California and New York. But the bill never had a chance with Christie, who has often and openly criticized what he calls a government-knows-best approach to growing businesses and the economy.
He said Tuesday that the government doesn’t “have the right” to force wage increases on employers. But, he said, Democrats will continue to push for mandatory raises to the minimum wage and called the issue “a fight.” His action, he said, “is just another round in this fight.”
Surrounded by peaches, bananas and zucchini, Christie vetoed the bill in a ceremony in the produce section at a supermarket.
“This bill is a complete pander to folks who are uninformed because they neither receive the minimum wage nor pay it,” Christie said.
The bill proposed raising the state minimum wage, currently $8.38 an hour, to $10.10 beginning Jan. 1, 2017, with gradual increases to $15 an hour by 2021.
Anticipating a Christie veto, Democrats have said they intend to put the measure on the 2017 ballot for voters to decide. Christie said if that is the case, he intends to have a “loud” public discussion about the issue because, he said, the wage increase makes businesses “non-competitive.”
“We need everybody to be united and not naive about the nature of this fight,” he said. “It will be loud, it will difficult, it will be expensive.”
He added that his veto “will not be overridden.”
Democrats have been successful in bypassing Christie to raise the minimum wage once before. In 2013, they put an increase on the ballot that was approved by voters, bringing the minimum to $8.25 an hour in 2014 and allowing for annual increases.