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New Hampshire inching closer to higher minimum wage

6/11/2019

New Hampshire inching closer to higher minimum wage

While most of New England got out in front of national efforts to raise the minimum wage, the Granite State has lagged behind. New Hampshire still has no minimum wage requirement of its own, deferring instead to the federal floor of just $7.25 per hour, even as two of its three bordering neighbors have set the wheels in motion for a $15 minimum (Massachusetts) or are on the path to doing so (Vermont), and another won't be at that level, but still well ahead of the curve (Maine).

That may soon change, however, as both the New Hampshire House and Senate passed bills that would raise the Granite State's minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2022, but differed on the details of how it would get there and other issues intended to improve workers' flexibility, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. The Senate's bill would raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour in 2021, and then to $12 the following year, but does not have exemptions for companies that offer at least 10 days of paid sick leave annually.

The House's version is effectively the same but would also change the rules around tipped workers' minimum wages, the report said. Because of the differences between these two bills, lawmakers will have to work together to solidify them into a single piece of legislation that could then be signed by Gov. Chris Sununu, though his assent on the issue is no sure thing either.

Back and forth
The minimum wage bill was originally passed in the House, then referred to the Senate, which passed it with some changes, according to The Associated Press. That meant it had to go back to the House, which passed it again but inserted other changes, which will lead to the need for reconciliation. But given that the bills were approved overwhelmingly in both halves of the legislature, a solution doesn't seem far off.

A better understanding
One of the issues is the House version of the bill would raise the tipped minimum wage to half of the overall minimum, according to In Depth NH. That's a rule that was in place in the 1990s but was later stripped out by previous lawmakers. The reason for this change - and others to go along with it - is that by not having a minimum wage above and beyond the federal level - and well below those of its neighbors - New Hampshire is continually losing business to other New England states.

Rep. Brian Sullivan, a Democrat representing Grantham who sits on the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitation Committee, told the site that the concern is simple: Without more basic worker protections, the Granite State will continue to lag behind the rest of the region.

"This will also increase the economy because low-wage workers inevitably spend every dollar they earn in the local economy," Sullivan said.

When companies are concerned about losing their existing skilled employees and being able to attract new ones, it's vital to raise their own wage and benefits offerings, regardless of what state lawmakers decide to do.

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