This is the one political contest Chris Christie lost in Tuesday’s election. By a 61-39 percent spread, New Jersey voters passed a constitutional amendment that will raise the minimum wage for workers by a dollar an hour – from $7.25 to $8.25.
“That is a stupid way to do it,” Christie told reporters during a public appearance last year. “That is not what the constitution is there for.”
Voters disagreed. While they re-elected Christie by a large margin – 60-38 percent – the electorate turned the tables on the ballot question.
As a result, minimum wage – plus annual cost-of-living increases in perpetuity – is cemented into the state constitution.
When a recession strikes, for example, the Legislature may be powerless to stop automatic increases until the law is changed, adjusted or repealed via another amendment.
The amendment gives lawmakers a last laugh over Christie. The governor conditionally vetoed a minimum wage bill earlier this year. As an alternative, he favored a gradual increase without any automatic yearly raises.
“The sudden, significant minimum-wage increase in this bill, coupled with automatic raises each year tied to the Unites States consumer price index, will jeopardize the economic recovery we all seek,” wrote Christie in this veto message.
Unable to override Christie’s veto, lawmakers voted in two successive sessions to put the question on the ballot.
New Jersey was the only state that has a minimum wage question on its ballot this year. But what happened here may be a bellwether for the rest of the country.
At least four other states – Alaska, Missouri, New Mexico and South Dakota – are considering similar proposals in 2014. Efforts also are under way to put minimum wage measures on the ballot in Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Hawaii and Idaho, according to Ballotpedia.org