- Associated Press - Thursday, May 26, 2016

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The New Jersey Assembly on Thursday passed legislation that would raise the state’s minimum wage to about $15 an hour over the next five years.

The Democrat-led Assembly approved the measure that would raise the current $8.38 wage to $10.10 on Jan. 1. It also would raise the wage by $1.25 a year or $1 plus an adjustment for inflation, whichever is greater, the following four years.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Labor unions, progressive advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers have swarmed the statehouse in recent weeks to push for the measure and hailed its passage. They argue that nearly one in four residents - or 975,000 people - would get a raise under the bill.

“Boosting the earnings of nearly 1 million working people in the state would help restore the strength of our working and middle classes,” said Brandon McKoy, an analyst at the left-leaning think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective.

Business groups object to the legislation arguing it inflates the cost of goods and labor.

“A $15 minimum wage is going to stifle economic growth,” said New Jersey Business and Industry Associate President Michele Siekerka.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie criticized the proposal recently. He said businesses would have to increase prices by 10 percent to 15 percent.

New Jersey raised the wage in 2013, going from $7.25 an hour to $8.25 an hour and indexing the wage to inflation.

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