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May 9, 2014

N.H. Senate rejects minimum wage hike

N.H. Senate splits minimum-wage vote along party lines

CONCORD — There’s no pay hike on the horizon for the state’s lowest-paid workers.

The New Hampshire Senate yesterday rejected a bill that would have raised the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25 next year and $9 in 2016.

Senators voted, 13-11, to kill House Bill 1403, with Republicans opposed and Democrats supporting the legislation. Southern New Hampshire’s four Republican senators voted against the increase.

Democrats, including Sen. Lou D’Allesandro of Manchester, urged their colleagues to pass the increase to provide “a livable wage” to thousands of Granite State workers. Approximately 76,000 workers would have received a raise under the bill.

“Make no mistake, the current minimum wage is an unlivable wage,” D’Allesandro said. “How can we justify continued inaction on this issue?”

D’Allesandro and fellow Democrats said with full-time minimum-wage workers earning about $15,000 a year, they can’t afford to support themselves and their families.

“They should be able to afford to live with dignity and to be able to raise their family,” Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen said. “We must restore and increase the minimum wage.”

Democrats said New Hampshire’s minimum-wage workers — 59 percent of whom are women — are paid in New England. The nation’s highest minimum wage is $9.32 in Washington state.

A 2011 law repealed New Hampshire’s minimum wage law in favor of the federal rate, a move backed by most of Southern New Hampshire’s Republican-dominated legislative delegation. New Hampshire is among 19 states that pay the federal minimum wage.

Under the proposal, future increases in the minimum wage would have been tied to the consumer price index.

Opponents said increasing the wage would burden small businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry, that are having a tough time staying open.

“We know this is a job killer,” Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro said. “Let’s kill this bill and preserve jobs in New Hampshire.”

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