Three Granite State Democrats have proposed a new bill to institute a state minimum wage. New Hampshire is one of a handful of states that currently use the federal minimum wage. It has New England’s lowest minimum wage at $7.25 per hour and hasn’t been raised since 2009 when the federal minimum wage was last increased.
Massachusetts will raise its minimum wage to $13.50 in 2021, Maine to $12.15, Connecticut $13.00, Vermont $11.75, and Rhode Island to $12.00. Similar proposals to increase New Hampshire’s wage to $12 were vetoed by Governor Chris Sununu during the past biennium.
On Wednesday, House Bill 107 will be introduced. It will, if passed, require a minimum wage in New Hampshire of $22.50, more than triple the current de facto rate. The text, as proposed by Rep. Catherine Sofikitis (D-Nashua) and co-sponsored by Reps. Jan Schmidt (D-Nashua) and Sherry Frost (D-Dover), would increase the minimum wage 60 days after the measure’s approval.
“$22.50 is outrageous,” Senator Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester) tells NHJournal. “We need to be reasonable. $7.25 is not reasonable, and neither is $22.”
“To be competitive with our surrounding area, we need to get to $15, but slowly,” D’Allesandro says. “$11 is a good start, that’s step one. Then $13, then $15, all over a number of years, not right away. This is just a ridiculous proposal.”
“It will not pass, not in the Republican-controlled government,” says Rep. Schmidt, who was appointed to the Labor Committee that will hear the bill. “There is zero chance except to bring to light what ‘minimum wage’ today, as compared to it eons ago, really means to New Hampshire’s working poor.”
“I support a minimum wage law in New Hampshire. What it should be? Not $7.50 (sic) – more like $15,” she tells NHJournal. Schmidt also says she supports a training wage, which doesn’t appear in this bill, and getting rid of the “tipped wage” provision. “My argument is always that raising the minimum will lower taxes. If a corporation doesn’t pay its employees enough to live in their community, the city has to pick up some of the expense.”
Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire has opposed minimum wage increases in the Granite State, saying they would have an opposite effect from the intentions.
“Minimum wage laws only serve to exclude people from the workforce, particularly young workers, those with disabilities, and those who are reentering from the criminal justice system,” Greg Moore, State Director at AFP-NH tells NHJournal. “A minimum wage of $22.50 would mean these groups would have little chance at gaining legal employment. Instead of harmful policies that hurt those who need opportunity the most, the legislature should focus on policies that help our economy, which is the best way to improve everyone’s wages.”
Drew Cline, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, agrees. “It’s a shame that legislators waste their time on such economically ridiculous and politically hopeless proposals,” he says.
The Congressional Budget Office studied minimum wage effects and concluded that 1.3 million additional Americans would be unemployed under a $15 minimum wage in 2025.
Sununu cites similar concerns in his veto of the minimum wage proposals last session. “It is important to remember that a law can force an employer to pay a minimum wage, but it cannot force an employer to hire or retain a worker at that wage, or to continue offering the same number of hours to that worker,” he said.
Observers note that with a slim Republican majority in the House, the bill is likely dead on arrival, as Rep. Schmidt surmises.