In response to mounting concerns regarding how the latest minimum wage law will impact local governments and taxpayers, Senator Kristin Corrado (R-40) formally introduced legislation on Thursday, Feb. 14 to exempt certain government workers from State minimum wage increases.
Prior to Governor Murphy’s signing of the minimum wage increase, municipal, school and county government employees were exempt from the State minimum wage, and were subject only to federal increases. Senator Corrado’s new legislation would restore this exemption, so that these employees would once again only be subject to the federal minimum wage.
“The new minimum wage law is forcing local leaders to make impossible choices,” Senator Corrado said. “Many of our towns currently provide extremely affordable community services, such as daycare, summer camp, and recreational classes for seniors. The unintended consequence of this law is that many of these programs will disappear, unless we take action to keep local government programs accessible.”
“Given our two-percent cap, there is only so much wiggle room in local budgets, so raising taxes to cover higher wages isn’t really an option,” Corrado added. “If we want to continue to keep families and seniors in our communities, we should do everything we can to preserve these programs now.”
The New Jersey League of Municipalities, Association of Counties, and School Boards Association all opposed S-15/A-15, specifically because the law removed the provision exempting municipal, county, and school district employees from the State minimum wage.
“While there is certainly merit in evaluating and increasing the minimum wage, this new mandate will only continue to raise costs on local governments, which operate under a 2 percent cap,” NJ League of Municipalities Assistant Executive Director Michael Cerra said. “We thank Senator Corrado and call on the Legislature to fully review the impact and give due consideration to this legislation.”
Municipal summer camps, school district after-care programs, library workers, park employees, municipal and county pools, animal shelters, lifeguards, and beach badge checkers are among some of the employees and services that could be cut locally if the Legislature doesn’t take action to restore the exemption.
Jonathan Pushman, of the NJ School Boards Association noted that certain contractors, such as substitute teachers and part-time custodians would also be impacted, and that the cost could be passed on to taxpayers, according to a report by New Jersey 101.5.
John Donnadio, Executive Director of the NJ Association of Counties told reporters that it would only be a matter of “two to three years” before the new minimum wage law becomes a “taxpayer disaster.”
Corrado added that although most full-time employees already make more than $15 an hour, many local government jobs are staffed by area teens, who will lose out on the opportunity to gain early work experience if these programs are eliminated.
The cost to local governments will be extreme across the state. For example, Burlington County will have to pay an additional $312,713 a year as a result of the increase, according to a reportby the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“It breaks my heart to think of all the working parents who won’t be able to find childcare this summer if these programs aren’t available,” Corrado added. “Our residents shouldn’t pay the price for progressive politics and we can’t keep asking taxpayers to foot the bill, either. We have a responsibility to listen to the local leaders in our communities and respond to their concerns. They have been clear about what will happen if we don’t take action. I hope that we can restore this exemption before they are forced to cut these invaluable services and programs.”