New Hampshire Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes says an increase in the minimum wage is long overdue.
New Hampshire repealed its own state minimum in 2011, and has since used the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.
Feltes and fellow Democrats in the legislative majority hope to raise the wage.
“It’s stuck at $7.25," he said. "In fact, as we mentioned earlier, we don’t have one in the state of New Hampshire. We’ve ceded all minimum wage authority to the federal govenrment. That’s not the New Hampshire way. That’s now how we operate.”
Speaking on NHPR's The Exchange on Monday, Feltes says one bill would establish a state minimum hourly rate at $10 next year, and increase it to $12 by 2020. Senate President Donna Soucy supports that legislation as well.
Bruce Berke, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, says that would be tough on small businesses. He adds that many businesses already pay more than $7.25 an hour; he estimates the effective rate is closer to $10.
"To have an artificial floor, or mandate put in, is a little frustrating for the small business owner," said Berke, who was also a guest on The Exchange.
Feltes says the debate on re-establishing a state minimum will include the rising costs.
"How do we best reflect what's going on in the economy to help working families get ahead and stay ahead and to help address some of the concerns of the small business community? It's a balance," he says.
Eighteen states began 2019 with increases in their minimum hourly wages, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Vermont's rate increased based on a tie-in with the consumer price index. Maine and Massachusetts increased their rates. Massachusetts' rate of $12 will be increased to $15 over five years.
The minimum wage rates in New England in 2019:
- Massachusetts: $12
- Maine: $11
- Vermont: $10.78
- Rhode Island: $10.50
- Connecticut: $10.10
- New Hampshire: $7.25 *Federal rate
With New Hampshire's rate being at least $3 below neighboring states, Feltes maintains there's not a question about the state being competitive with others on this issue. "The reality is," he says, "New Hampshire's an island right now in terms of our minimum wage."