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Democrats want state minimum wage bill

CONCORD - The state Senate on Thursday decided to wait for the House before acting on legislation to re-establish a state minimum wage in New Hampshire.

As senators tabled a proposed state minimum wage bill, a House committee was putting final touches on its own version of the legislation.

Federal law already covers New Hampshire residents, most of whom must be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Senators tabled a bill that would bring back the state minimum wage law, which was repealed by the Republican supermajority Legislature over the veto of then-Gov. John Lynch a couple of years ago.

The Senate bill (Senate Bill 77), sponsored by Manchester Democrat Donna Soucy and others, would bring back a state minimum wage law and set the minimum wage at the same $7.25 provided in federal law.

Soucy and Democratic members of the Senate, who support bringing back a state counterpart to the federal wage law, said they were willing to let the House take the first step.

"A similar bill is coming over from the House; there were other issues before the Senate," Soucy said.

Three minimum wage bills were filed in the House for the current term. One, House Bill 127, would set a minimum wage of $9.25 per hour. Another, HB 241, would set an $8 minimum, but index the minimum to the rate of inflation so that minimum wage workers would receive automatic increases.

The committee voted 19-1 to recommend killing both bills.

A third bill would have increased the minimum wage to $8.25. That measure, House Bill 501, survived, but the proposed minimum was trimmed back to the federal $7.25 level - the same as the bill that the Senate tabled.

Soucy contends that the state should have a minimum wage law on the books.

Sen. Jeb Bradley, who predicted the Senate will sink any attempt to establish a state minimum wage, claimed minimum wage increases, nationally and on a state-by-state basis, take a toll in jobs.

"There are 16 states that have a higher minimum wage law than New Hampshire, 14 of them have a higher unemployment rate than New Hampshire," Bradley said. "When the federal minimum wage law went up in 2009 to $7.25 an hour, in the next two months after that, 230,000 Americans, teenagers mostly, lost jobs."

The House is expected to debate the minimum wage bill when it meets in formal session next week.

Trace Adkins
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