Hike to $12 minimum wage fails in Senate

Kevin Landrigan, The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester
·3 min read

Mar. 18—CONCORD — The New Hampshire State Senate on Thursday rejected along partisan lines a Democratic move to raise minimum wages paid in the state to $12 an hour.

The state hasn't raised the minimum in 14 years. Since 2010 New Hampshire hasn't had its own minimum, relying instead on the federal wage floor of $7.25 an hour.

Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, has offered this bill (SB 136) in some form in each term she served over 15 years in the House of Representatives and Senate.

This bill would have raised the minimum wage to $10 next Jan. 1, 2022 and to $12 on Jan. 1, 2024.

Someone working 40 hours a week at $7.25 an hour earns $15,080 a year, which is below the federal poverty level and makes them eligible for government aid like Medicaid and food stamps, Soucy said.

"Right now, New Hampshire taxpayers are subsidizing businesses that are not willing to pay their workers a living wage," Soucy said. "Raising the minimum wage would reduce government spending on public assistance."

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded a federal bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour would put 13,000 New Hampshire residents out of work.

"I have long said a raise in the minimum wage is well-intended, but it has some really negative consequences," Bradley said. "There are winners and there are losers. The losers are people who get priced out of an increase in the minimum wage."

All 14 Senate Republicans opposed the bill. All 10 Democrats voted for it.

House has own bill

The House of Representatives' minimum wage increase (HB 107) soon will face a similar fate.

The bill from State Rep. Catherine Sofikitis, D-Nashua, would roughly triple the minimum wage to $22.50 an hour, which is close to the average wage earned in New Hampshire, according to the state Department of Labor.

A House committee recommended on a 19-1 vote to kill the bill. The House is expected to take the measure up when it next meets on April 8.

Sen. Bill Gannon, R-Sandown, noted that according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12,000 workers earn the minimum here.

"You are going to deny entry-level jobs to young kids who are going to soon earn more money," Gannon said. "Raising the minimum wage is just wrong for New Hampshire,"

There are 21 states that like New Hampshire are tied to the federal minimum.

On Jan. 1, 2020, 20 states, including Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and Connecticut, raised their minimum wage.

All the other New England states have much higher minimums than New Hampshire: $12.75 in Massachusetts, $12 in Maine, $10.96 in Vermont, $10.50 in Rhode Island and $11 in Connecticut.

When Democrats controlled the Legislature over the past two years, Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed two bills to raise the minimum and the Legislature sustained both those vetoes.

klandrigan@unionleader.com