Kelly said she was reluctant to propose an increase until now because of the state’s slumping economy. The wage has remained the same since 2007, she said.
“I did not think the time was accurate,” she said. “I do see the recovery happening now.”
Raising the wage until now would have hurt restaurants and many small businesses that rely on minimum-wage workers to remain in operation, she said. It has not increased since 2007, Kelly said.
That’s a main reason minimum wage legislation has been killed by lawmakers in recent years, including in 2013.
A 2011 law that repealed New Hampshire’s minimum wage law in favor of the federal rate was backed by most of Southern New Hampshire’s Republican-dominated legislative delegation. Including New Hampshire, 19 states use the federal minimum wage.
They included Rep. Kenneth Weyler, R-Kingston, who continues to believe the higher minimum wages proposed by Democrats would hurt New Hampshire businesses.
“A lot of what the Democrats do is not to help the people of New Hampshire. It’s to follow the agenda of the national party,” he said. “It would hurt the state of New Hampshire.”
Weyler said many small businesses, especially restaurants, could not afford an increase and they would have to lay off workers.
“You imperil their jobs by increasing the minimum wage because the hospitality industry will have a struggle,” he said. “It will cost us jobs — I’m not in favor of it. We would also make it difficult for employers to start up.”
University of New Hampshire political science professor Andrew Smith, head of the UNH Survey Center, said the poll released Thursday shows widespread support for an increase.
The Granite State Poll, conducted between Jan. 28 and Feb. 2, surveyed 568 randomly selected state residents. Fifty-nine percent “strongly” supported the increase while 17 percent were “somewhat” in support.
Meanwhile, 8 percent were “strongly” in opposition and 5 percent were “somewhat” opposed. Eight percent said “don’t know” and 3 percent were neutral.
Of those polled who favored the bill, 91 percent were Democrats, 70 percent were independents and 64 were Republicans. Of those opposed, 24 percent were Republicans, 17 percent were independents and 2 percents were Democrats. The margin for error was plus or minus 4 percent.