Democrats began their push this session to raise New Hampshire’s minimum wage during hearings at the Statehouse on Tuesday.
Lawmakers are considering three different bills that would each take a different approach to increasing the state’s rate, which currently stands at $7.25 an hour.
“There may be some place in the United States where $7.25 an hour provides any kind of adequate compensation, but New Hampshire ain’t one of those places,” said Rep. Peter Schmidt, a Democrat from Dover, during a hearing before the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee.
Schmidt is backing a bill that would increase the rate immediately to $10 an hour. A competing bill would gradually raise the state’s rate to $12 an hour, while a third measure would result in a $15 per hour wage by 2024.
Supporters of the bills say New Hampshire’s rate, which is the lowest in New England, results in gainfully employed people still relying on government supports such as welfare.
“The more people we have at a low minimum wage, the more taxes are going to be required from all of us to support public assistance programs that those people need to live on,” said Rep. Howard Moffett, a Democrat from Canterbury.
But opponents of a higher wage, including many Republicans, say that it leads to higher prices, reduced hours for workers, and more jobs lost to automation.
“How much is a cheeseburger going to cost if the teenager working there gets $15 an hour?” asked Rep. Jeanine Notter of Merrimack.
In 2011, New Hampshire scrapped its minimum wage law, leaving it effectively tied to the federal rate, which hasn’t increased since 2009. Neighboring states all set higher wages, with places like Vermont tying its rate, currently $10.78, to inflation. Maine’s minimum wage increased to $11 this year.
Democrats in New Hampshire face a possible veto threat from Gov. Chris Sununu, who criticized a $15 an hour wage during his re-election campaign.