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Governor vetoes $12 per hour minimum wage bill

NASHUA – What do West Virginia, Arkansas, Missouri and South Dakota have in common?

Aside from being so-called “red states” that heavily supported the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, each of these states enforces an hourly minimum wage that is higher than New Hampshire’s $7.25.

Unless Senate and House Democrats can muster enough votes to override Gov. Chris Sununu’s Friday veto of Senate Bill 10, the Granite State’s minimum wage will remain the federal standard of $7.25 per hour.

SB 10 calls for increasing the wage from $7.25 per hour to $10 per hour, effective Jan. 1 – and ultimately to $12 per hour on Jan. 1, 2022.

“Advocates of SB 10 seem to think that the government can raise the price of labor without reducing the amount of workers that will be hired,” Sununu wrote in his veto message. “I will not be the governor that signs a bill that will lead to lost jobs, cut hours, and less money in the pockets of hardworking Granite Staters.”

“There is nothing positive about reducing a worker’s chances of getting a job,” Sununu added.

If an employee earning the current $7.25 minimum wage worked 40 hours per week for 52 weeks in a year, he or she would realize an annual salary of $15,080, or $290 per week.

However, Sununu claims less than 1% of Granite Staters earned minimum wage in 2018, with most of those being employees who also collected tips.

“New Hampshire’s economy is booming, and I will do everything in my power to ensure we continue that trend, not hinder it,” Sununu added.

Dems Not Giving Up

New Hampshire Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, sponsored SB 10.

“While it is disappointing that Gov. Sununu vetoed legislation today to re-establish and raise New Hampshire’s minimum wage, I remain committed to this fight and extend my sincere gratitude to the advocates and lawmakers pushing to raise the wage,” Soucy said on Friday. “New Hampshire values work-it’s far past time for us to guarantee that hardworking Granite Staters earn enough to support themselves and their families.”

“Raising the minimum wage would boost New Hampshire’s economy and help 115,000 workers put food on the table for their families. But since it doesn’t benefit himself, raising the minimum wage means nothing for Chris Sununu,” Democratic Governors Association spokesman David Turner added. “The only person Chris Sununu is interested in giving a raise to is himself and his cronies.”

State Rep. Brian Sullivan, D-Grantham, is chair of the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee.

“Last month, I joined several other legislators who participated in the minimum wage challenge. My wife and I lived for one week on a minimum wage budget, feeding ourselves on $55 and a box of vegetables. While we succeeded in this temporary exercise, we were very aware that one mishap like a medical issue or auto breakdown would have buried us. The reality is that it is impossible for a couple to live on two 40/hour jobs at $7.25 per hour,” Sullivan said.

“Gov. Sununu was also invited to accept the minimum wage challenge but did not. Perhaps if he had, he would have understood the real struggles of low wage earners and thought twice about this veto,” Sullivan added.

Sununu Sees Support

On the other side of the debate, National Federation of Independent Business New Hampshire State Director Bruce Berke said the wage increase would have made it more difficult for young people to enter the workforce.

“The economic reality is many small businesses simply cannot afford the increased labor costs. Business owners would be forced to eliminate entry-level positions and reduce worker hours, especially if they can’t raise prices without turning customers away,” Berke said. “These additional costs would have fallen hardest on food service, retail, and seasonal businesses, as well as daycares and nonprofits.”

“We thank the governor for vetoing what we felt was a flawed bill,” New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association President and CEO Mike Somers added.

House Minority Leader Richard Hinch, R-Merrimack, said he believes Republicans have enough votes to sustain Sununu’s veto.

“I trust business owners to make appropriate wage decisions for “their market conditions and company needs” without government mandates or interference,” Hinch said. “The Republican caucus will proudly stand with the people of New Hampshire and sustain the governor’s veto.”