The Hippo


Jun 2, 2020








Minimum wage wars
Bills would move minimum wage in opposite directions

By Ryan Lessard

Three bills in the legislature would change the state’s minimum wage law, but Republicans and Democrats are far from finding common ground.

A bill in the Senate, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Donna Soucy, would increase the minimum wage — currently pegged to the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour — to $8.50 per hour by Sept. 1, to $10 on March 1, 2018, and $12 by Sept. 1, 2018. 
Another bill in the House, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Doug Ley, would raise it to $9.50 by Jan. 1, 2018. It would then go up $12 by 2019 and then grow incrementally based on the consumer price index from 2020 onward.
But with Republicans in control of state government at all levels, neither bill is likely to pass. So apart are the two parties on this issue that Republican state Rep. Norman Silber has proposed repealing the entirety of the state’s minimum wage law, which would only affect businesses not engaged in interstate commerce.
Both Ley and Silber say their goal is to help the local economy.
While Ley is realistic about the near-zero chance of his bill getting passed this year, he said it was still worth submitting as a way to keep the conversation going.
“I think it’s an issue that always deserves airing,” Ley said. “This bill is a platform.”
For Ley, raising the minimum wage would help the struggling working class and retain young people who are leaving the state for better pay elsewhere.
“We’re becoming the low-wage repository in New England,” Ley said.
Silber agrees something needs to be done to retain the workforce, but he believes raising the minimum wage would shoot the local economy in the foot. Silber said a higher minimum runs the risk of encouraging more companies to turn toward greater automation with the end result being fewer jobs to go around. He pointed to companies like McDonald’s and Bank of America, which have signaled an interest in moving in that direction.
These arguments fall within the common ideological fault lines dividing this issue, but what makes New Hampshire’s case different is that its current minimum wage law is as stripped as it can reasonably be without being entirely repealed. The only thing Silber hopes to accomplish by doing away with the law is to give small businesses in New Hampshire that do not engage in interstate commerce the ability to pay even lower rates than the $7.25 per hour set by the federal government. 
But Silber concedes the change would be more symbolic since wages are, at least in theory, a bargain and sale between employer and prospective employee and the prevailing wages are already well above the minimum.
In other words, if a fast food restaurant is having trouble hiring at $8 per hour, it’s not likely anyone would accept a job for $2 per hour. 
But based on the initial hearing for Silber’s repeal bill, he isn’t expecting it to pass either.
The last scientific poll by the UNH Survey Center gauging what Granite Staters think about raising the minimum wage was in February 2014. 
At the time, the poll asked participants about a specific plan that would raise the minimum to $8.25 the first year and $9 the second year. The vast majority, 76 percent, were in favor and 13 percent opposed it. 
More recently, a non-scientific social media poll was taken by Citizens Count that tells a different story. When asked if the state should raise its minimum wage to $9.50 by 2018 (Soucy’s proposal), 62 percent said no and 38 percent said yes.
Respondents were self-selected and not part of a random sample. 

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