The New Jersey Senate intends to vote Thursday on a bill to boost the minimum wage.

Passed by the Assembly in May, the measure would increase base pay to $8.50 an hour and provide automatic annual increases based on the consumer price index.

 

Saying thousands of businesses have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy, Gov. Chris Christie questions whether this is the time to hit them with a $1.25 increase.

"We've got thousands of businesses wiped out and is this really now the moment to say to those folks we're going to hit you with a $1.25 increase on March 1 and a CPI beyond that?" he said.

Senate President Steve Sweeney rejects that argument.

"We are dealing with the storm. We're going to deal with the storm for several years. He said it's going to take three to five years to get the state back up and running. So we're not going to raise the minimum wage for three to five years because of the storm?" Sweeney said.

"The minimum wage is actually going to help the economy not hurt the economy because when you give people money on the lower end of the scale they spend it," said Sweeney, D-Gloucester.

Christie says he's willing to consider what he calls a "responsible" minimum wage package, but he has concerns about the legislation before the Senate. And legislative leaders have not negotiated with him on the issue, he said Wednesday.

"I have absolutely great concern for the working poor in this state, and I want to make sure that they're taken care of, and I think there's lots of ways we can do that, but no one has negotiated with me yet," said the governor. "They're working down the hall in a vacuum."

Democratic leaders also plan to proceed with a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow voters to approve or deny a minimum wage increase if the governor does not sign the bill.