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Friday, March 8, 2013

Senate tables minimum wage bill until late spring

CONCORD – The State Senate ducked a debate Thursday on restoring a state minimum wage, but advocates believe the delay could pay off later this spring.

By a voice vote the Senate tabled its own bill, SB 77, to establish a state minimum after leaders in both parties said they wanted to wait for the House to act on three bills of its own. ...

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CONCORD – The State Senate ducked a debate Thursday on restoring a state minimum wage, but advocates believe the delay could pay off later this spring.

By a voice vote the Senate tabled its own bill, SB 77, to establish a state minimum after leaders in both parties said they wanted to wait for the House to act on three bills of its own.

Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, said she remains optimistic that a compromise could be reached before the end of the 2013 session.

“We are just delaying the debate. I’m always hopeful that we can come to some meeting of the minds,” Soucy said during an interview.

Soucy has 10 co-sponsors for her own bill, but none of them are the 13 Senate Republicans who hold the key to whether the issue ultimately goes anywhere.

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, hasn’t changed his mind and thought Thursday’s action reaffirmed what the Republican-led Legislature did in stripping its own state minimum wage law in 2011.

“I am gratified the entire Senate stood for small businesses, job growth and opportunity by tabling an attempt to reinstate a New Hampshire minimum wage law. Currently, 16 states have a higher minimum wage than the Granite State, and 14 of those 16 states have a higher unemployment rate than ours,” Bradley said in a statement.

Bradley said a higher minimum wage would mean fewer jobs for younger and lower-skilled workers. More than 330,000 American teens lost jobs in the two months after the national minimum wage was raised in 2009, he said.

The action of the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee this week, however, raises hopes for a final agreement.

The panel overwhelmingly voted to strip minimum wage increases out of three bills and take one and simply recreate a state minimum that would equal the federal standard of $7.25 an hour. The committee voted, 18-2, to create the state minimum wage amendment to a bill, HB 501, that Durham Democratic Rep. Timothy Horrigan authored that would have raised the rate by $1 an hour.

“I’m pleased with what the House committee is moving towards because it’s right along the lines of our bill,” Soucy said.

New Hampshire is the only state among its neighbors without a higher wage than the federal standard. The minimum wage is $8.60 an hour in Vermont, $8 in Massachusetts and $7.50 in Maine.

Until the Legislature struck any reference to a state minimum, New Hampshire had one on the books since 1949.

The state Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 14,000 New Hampshire workers make less the minimum although many of those are waiters and waitresses in restaurants who legally can get paid less because they also collect tips.

A phalanx of business owners and their lobbying groups turned out against increasing the minimum wage before the House committee including the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, Business & Industry Association and Retail Merchants Association of New Hampshire.

Kevin Landrigan can reached
at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@KLandrigan).
on Twitter.