Aug 22, 2011 3:51 PM GMT
Real Clear PoliticsNH dumping own minimum wage law Sunday
Calling the minimum wage law a job-killing regulation, Republicans overrode Democratic Gov. John Lynch's veto in June and stripped New Hampshire's minimum wage law from the books.
The change takes effect Sunday, but it will have no consequence for employers or employees because New Hampshire's minimum wage was the same as the federal wage, which remains in force.
During the fight over the removing the state law from the books, Republicans insisted the wage law not only makes it harder to create jobs, it kills them.
"With this veto, the governor is sending the wrong message to employers that New Hampshire is going to make it harder to create jobs," Republican House Speaker William O'Brien said in June. Voters, he said, have sent "a clear message that they wanted more jobs, not job-killing regulations, like the minimum wage."
House Republicans also killed a Democratically sponsored bill that would have raised the wage. Democrats argued the 75 cent proposed hourly increase would put $30 more each week in the pockets of the state's 4,000 lowest-paid workers, money that would be spent boosting the economy.
Democrats _ including Lynch _ insisted that stripping the state minimum wage law from the books effectively cedes control to Congress.
"Repealing New Hampshire's minimum wage leaves New Hampshire workers at the whim of the federal government," House Democratic Leader Terie Norelli said in a statement to The Associated Press. "Congress could lower the federal minimum wage, or eliminate it altogether with the idea that it should be a state issue, leaving New Hampshire workers with no protection."
Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen said repealing the law "sends a terrible message of disregard for those at the lower level of the job ladder."
But Henry Veilleux, lobbyist for the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association, says the partisan battle over the law amounted to a lot of political scrambling over nothing.
"There was so much political air spent on something that is meaningless, in my opinion," he said.
Veilleux said most businesses already pay above the $7.25 per hour minimum wage to attract and keep good workers.
Curtis Barry, lobbyist for the Retail Merchants Association of New Hampshire, said the association took no position on the effort to repeal New Hampshire's law. Barry added that he's not aware of any retailers wishing for the minimum wage to be lowered.
Tom Boucher, whose Great NH Restaurants firm manages T-Bones, Cactus Jacks and the Copper Door restaurants, said of their 450 employees in seven restaurants, only the staff clearing the table are paid minimum wage, but they also get tips.
"I honestly can't imagine someone paying that amount and being able to attract and keep employees," he said.
But O'Brien insists it makes New Hampshire more competitive. The state can't have a higher minimum than other states and expect the state's businesses to expand or other businesses to relocate to New Hampshire, he said.
"Furthermore, minimum wage jobs are often filled by younger workers with no job skills and represent an entry into the job market to begin up the career ladder," he told The AP via email. "High minimum wages takes an axe to the bottom rung of the career ladder and deny many of those entry-level workers the chance to develop the job skills to have success later in life."
State Rep. Carol McGuire, the Epsom Republican who sponsored the bill, acknowledges it changes little and could be restored by lawmakers at any time. She would have liked to have repealed the minimum wage entirely and let the free market dictate wages, she said.
"It's very discriminatory, particularly for young people. They're not worth the minimum," she said.
She believes there are young people who would get a job if they could be paid $5 an hour instead of the minimum.
Boucher said he'd rather see lawmakers spend their time reducing regulations requiring businesses to do time-consuming and unnecessary paperwork rather than fighting over an issue that affects no one. Even if he wanted to, he can't pay wages far below what workers can live on or he'll lose them, he said.
"I don't understand that logic that it will encourage business to hire more. I don't know any business that pays minimum wage other than maybe a few seasonal attractions," he said.
The Associated Press