Sen. Donna Soucy

Sen. Donna Soucy

Any person working full time should be able to provide for themselves and their family. That is why I have introduced SB 410, my 8th piece of legislation aimed at raising New Hampshire’s minimum wage.

I have been fighting for a living wage for Granite Staters since I was first elected to the Senate in 2012. SB 410 is designed to increase New Hampshire’s minimum wage over the course of the next two years. The first raise would be to $10 in 2021 and then $12 in 2022.

Last session, I introduced SB 10 which would have raised New Hampshire’s minimum wage gradually to $12. Despite support from the House and the Senate, the measure was vetoed by Governor Sununu. In the time since the governor’s veto, we have seen every neighboring state increase their minimum wage. Right now, we are the only state in New England following the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, and the only New England state with a minimum wage below $10.50.

New Hampshire has not raised its minimum wage since 2009. While the cost of living, from groceries to gas to daycare, has steadily increased, paychecks have not. When wages are inflation-adjusted to 2019 dollars, an individual making the minimum wage in 2009 took home about 17% more pay in terms of real purchase power than someone making $7.25 an hour in 2019.

Assuming an individual works 40 hours a week at the minimum wage for the entire year with no time off they will bring home about $15,000 per year, leaving them below the federal poverty guidelines. Anyone living and working in New Hampshire knows that isn’t enough to live on for an individual, let alone support a family. Our fellow Granite Staters are being forced to do more with less — or turn to government programs like food stamps and child care assistance just to get by. How can we say we are doing our best by our constituents when someone working full time can’t afford basic necessities? Rather than having taxpayers subsidize companies refusing to pay their employees a living wage shouldn’t we invest in employees?

New Hampshire is a state that values hard work. We boast our low unemployment rate at 2.6% but often fail to recognize what that number is developed from. It is made up of the college student working 30 hours a week on top of classes to pay down student loans, or the single parent balancing multiple jobs to pay their bills on time, or the displaced trade worker picking up shifts while they find a new job in their field. For those people, and so many more working for our state’s current minimum wage, that hard work is not compensated in a living wage.

Not only does this affect employees, but employers are also finding themselves caught in a tight labor market with an even more pronounced shortage of workers.

New Hampshire is not an island. We live in a geographically small region where competition for retaining workers is high. When our neighboring states have all committed to higher minimum wages, New Hampshire businesses lose out on skilled workers who otherwise may have stayed in-state. Raising the minimum wage is a common sense measure to keep families in New Hampshire and continue to grow our economy.

As a state, we are constantly striving toward an economy that attracts and retains hard workers. We know that more money in the pockets of our employees means more money flowing back into our economy. We know that higher wages lead to greater employee retention. We know that New Hampshire should make decisions based on our state, not based on what comes out of Washington D.C.

It is long past time to take this crucial step toward supporting our working families and growing our economy. I implore my colleagues of the New Hampshire Senate to join me in supporting SB 410.

Monday, February 17, 2020
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Senate President Donna Soucy represents District 8 — Wards 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 in the City of Manchester and Litchfield.