TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — The Senate Budget Committee voted to give the state's lowest-paid hourly employees a $1.25 per hour raise on Monday, following about two hours of debate over whether a minimum wage increase would spur New Jersey's sluggish economy or kill precious jobs.

The bill heads to the full Senate.

The wage increase bill has been a high priority for legislative Democrats this year. The Assembly passed a bill in May raising the wage to $8.50 per hour and making yearly adjustments. But the measure stalled in the Democrat-led Senate when Senate President Steve Sweeney decided on an alternate route: Letting voters decide in a ballot question whether to hike the wage.

Sweeney, of Gloucester County, said he changed course because Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, indicated he would not sign a measure that included automatic annual wage adjustments. Of the 10 states that adjust their wage floor annually based on national economic data like the Consumer Price Index, nine have minimum wages higher than the federal minimum of $7.25.

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