Gov.-elect Phil Murphy calls for $15 minimum wage

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TRENTON -

Gov.-elect Phil Murphy says New Jersey's minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour.

Murphy stood alongside Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney and incoming Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin Monday at the State House to support Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross' federal proposal to raise the minimum wage. It was the first public event Murphy has held with legislative leaders.

New Jersey’s current minimum wage is $8.44. It will increase to $8.60 New Year’s Day.

“If you do the math, $15 an hour is hardly heroic,” Murphy said. “Two people with two dependents making $15 an hour is still at the poverty level by the 21st century definition.”

The legislators didn't unveil a specific measure to raise the rate. But Murphy said that he would like to see the wage increase in a three- to four-year phase-in. Murphy said that it was a high legislative priority. A vote on a plan could happen a few months after Murphy takes office on Jan. 16.

Trenton school cafeteria supervisor Leslie Hall says that $15 an hour would change her life. She is currently being paid $11.35 per hour.

“I have a child at home that I’m trying to raise and take care of, but I don’t have extras for her,” Hall says.

But not everyone is in favor of increasing the minimum wage. Advocates like the New Jersey Business and Industry Association argue that the added cost could sink a small business.

The owner of Checkers Food and Spirits in Trenton says that consumers don't realize how much the costs will come back to them if the wage is increased.

“It’s going to end up their prices are going to have to be raised just to compensate for the increase in the payroll,” says Tom Fowler.

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill last year that phased in a $15 minimum wage over five years.

Some lawmakers says that they favor exceptions to the $15 wage, such as keeping it lower for restaurant workers.

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