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Lamontagne touts seasonal, lower minimum wage at school

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 22. 2012 10:41PM
Students listen as Republican gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne speaks to Manchester Central High School’s Modern Issues class taught by David Scannell and the freshman English class of Kristin O’Brien on Tuesday in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER - Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ovide Lamontagne told high school students he would like to establish a seasonal minimum wage in order to create more summer jobs.

Answering a question from a student, Lamontagne said a lower minimum wage would open opportunities for summer jobs. When he asked for a show of hands, few students had lined up summer jobs.

'There's still a lot of anxiety. People aren't hiring the way they should be in an (economic) expansion,' Lamontagne said. 'There should be jobs for you.'

Lamontagne prefaced his remarks on minimum wage by saying it was a federal issue.

Actually, states are allowed to set their own minimum wage, and the three states that border New Hampshire all have minimum wages higher than the $7.25 rate, according to the U.S. Labor Department website.

In 2007, Gov. John Lynch signed legislation raising the state minimum wage, according to the website. In July 2009, the current federal minimum went into effect, which matched the New Hampshire wage at the time.

Federal law also allows for lower wages for young, entry-level workers and for students.

A Manchester native, Lamontagne is a lawyer who ran for U.S. Senate in 2010, losing a close race to then Attorney General Kelly Ayotte.

He spoke to two Central High School English classes, one a freshman class and the other one of juniors and seniors.

The classes prepared by reading position papers on Lamontagne's website and formulating questions, according to one of the instructors, David Scannell.

Maggie Hassan, a former Democratic state senator also running for governor, is expected to address the class today. Scannell said that another Republican candidate, Kevin Smith, will appear next week.

Sarah Hollins, a senior, said it was important that Lamontagne came to the class.

'He did a pretty good job connecting with us,' Hollins said.

In his introductory remarks, Lamontagne noted that he graduated from Trinity High School. But at that time, Trinity students took science classes at Central, he said.

He said his Roman Catholic faith would not influence his decision-making. 'You make decisions in the secular world,' he said. Asked about gay marriage, he said he's running on a jobs platform.

'I am a social conservative, and I believe in traditional marriage, but I'm not running to deal with that issue,' Lamontagne said.

He also discussed education reforms. He advocated local decision-making, hinting that principals should hire teachers and devise curricula. He also said students should be able to pick their own schools.

He also said a school budget has to be developed and funded locally. But when asked later by a reporter, Lamontagne said he also supports targeted state aid.

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