By David Madden

TRENTON, NJ (CBS) – The New Jersey State Senate has passed, along strict party lines, a measure that would raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour in two steps next year and grant automatic increases in the future based on inflation. The measure goes to the Assembly, which is expected to approve it next week.

READ MORE: Philadelphia Students Finding Comfort In Rec Centers Again Amid Gun Violence Epidemic

Republicans in opposition to the plan said now was not the time.  Jennifer Beck of Red Bank says Hurricane Sandy got her to reconsider her position.

“There is no way that, at this moment in time, we’re doing the right thing by raising costs on these folks who’ve lost everything.”

READ MORE: 'I Thought I Was Done': Residents Of Trevose Mobile Home Park Pick Up The Pieces After EF-3 Tornado

Democrats insisted the hike is necessary to help the working poor. Senate President Steve Sweeney believes there’s a philosophical difference between the two parties. Nothing more.

“The people who are opposed to the bill were opposed to it before the storm. So don’t use the storm. Honestly, that is offensive.”

MORE NEWS: Pirates' Crowe, 2 Relievers 1-Hit Phillies, End 4-Game Skid

Governor Chris Christie has indicated he’d be open to a minimum wage increase, but not automatic hikes based on the consumer price index.