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Capital Beat

N.H. House hearing on minimum wage draws crowd from both sides

  • The State House reflects off the window that Anita Mendes stands behind for a portrait at the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. Mendes testified earlier in the day in favor of House Bill 1403, which establishes a state minimum wage, to the House committee on Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services. She earned a masters degree in social work and has worked as a community advocate, but for the past four years, she has worked in the nonprofit sector for minimum wage at 18 hours per week. She now relies on her mother, who is more than 90 years old, and her two children for support.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    The State House reflects off the window that Anita Mendes stands behind for a portrait at the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. Mendes testified earlier in the day in favor of House Bill 1403, which establishes a state minimum wage, to the House committee on Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services. She earned a masters degree in social work and has worked as a community advocate, but for the past four years, she has worked in the nonprofit sector for minimum wage at 18 hours per week. She now relies on her mother, who is more than 90 years old, and her two children for support.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • A supporter of House Bill 1403, a bill to raise the state's minimum wage, holds a sign during a press conference on Tuesday morning, February 11, 2014 at the Legislative Office Building in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    A supporter of House Bill 1403, a bill to raise the state's minimum wage, holds a sign during a press conference on Tuesday morning, February 11, 2014 at the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Sen. Sylvia Larsen, of Concord, left, and Rep. Sally Kelly, of Chichester, stand at the podium during a press conference about House Bill 1403, a bill proposing to raise the minimum wage, at the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. Rep. Kelly is the sponsor of the bill. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Sen. Sylvia Larsen, of Concord, left, and Rep. Sally Kelly, of Chichester, stand at the podium during a press conference about House Bill 1403, a bill proposing to raise the minimum wage, at the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. Rep. Kelly is the sponsor of the bill.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Barbara Spike, right, of Plymouth, testifies before the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services committee on Tuesday afternoon, February 11, 2014 at the Legislative Office Building in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Barbara Spike, right, of Plymouth, testifies before the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services committee on Tuesday afternoon, February 11, 2014 at the Legislative Office Building in Concord.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • The State House reflects off the window that Anita Mendes stands behind for a portrait at the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. Mendes testified earlier in the day in favor of House Bill 1403, which establishes a state minimum wage, to the House committee on Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services. She earned a masters degree in social work and has worked as a community advocate, but for the past four years, she has worked in the nonprofit sector for minimum wage at 18 hours per week. She now relies on her mother, who is more than 90 years old, and her two children for support.<br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • A supporter of House Bill 1403, a bill to raise the state's minimum wage, holds a sign during a press conference on Tuesday morning, February 11, 2014 at the Legislative Office Building in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Sen. Sylvia Larsen, of Concord, left, and Rep. Sally Kelly, of Chichester, stand at the podium during a press conference about House Bill 1403, a bill proposing to raise the minimum wage, at the Legislative Office Building in Concord on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. Rep. Kelly is the sponsor of the bill. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Barbara Spike, right, of Plymouth, testifies before the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services committee on Tuesday afternoon, February 11, 2014 at the Legislative Office Building in Concord. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Anita Mendes keeps her house at 62 degrees in the winter. She tailors her own clothes so she doesn’t have to buy more and eats often at community dinners, helping clean up afterward to show her gratitude. She rarely pays even a few dollars to go to community dances or other social events.

Many lobbyists and organizations who support a bill to increase the minimum wage used statistics to make their case to a House committee yesterday. Mendes, 67, put a face to those numbers.

Mendes shared her story with the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services committee because she thinks people “don’t have an accurate picture of welfare mothers.” She has a master’s degree and spent most of her life working to support her two sons without child support from their father, at one point receiving food stamps. For the past four years, she’s worked 18 hours a week for minimum wage to supplement her Social Security income and struggles to make ends meet. Her sons now have successful careers, and she relies on them as well as her mother, who is older than 90, for support. The $30 more a week she’d make with the minimum wage increase would make a big difference, she said.

“I would feel more valued as a worker, and I would enjoy some modest improvements to my way of life,” she said.

New Hampshire repealed its minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in 2011, a mostly symbolic move that led the state to rely on the federal wage of the same amount. This bill would set a state minimum wage at $8.25 an hour in 2015 then raise it to $9 an hour in 2016. After that, increases would be tied to the consumer price index.

The hearing on the bill comes after a call from President Obama in his State of the Union address for states to increase their minimum wages, but the chance of a minimum wage passing New Hampshire’s Republican-led Senate is slim. Supporters argue it is both morally sound and smart economic policy to raise the minimum wage and called the increase “modest.” But opponents said the increase is far from small, and it would result in businesses hiring fewer workers for fewer hours. Furthermore, opponents said, it would create pressure for all employees’ wages to rise.

“Small-business owners that have just a few employees are going to want to make, for themselves, what they currently make,” said Curtis Barry, a lobbyist for the Retail Merchants Association of New Hampshire. “They will say, ‘We will do more with less, I’ll work more myself.’ ”

Raising the minimum wage to $8.25 then $9 wouldn’t just raise wages for those people making $7.25 an hour, he noted. It would raise wages for everyone in between and encourage higher-paid employees to seek comparable increases. And the higher an employer’s payroll costs, the more they pay in certain taxes, he said.

Supporters of a wage increase said that a raise in pay would result in workers putting money back into the local economy by paying for things such as groceries and rent to local landlords.

They also said raising the minimum wage is simply the right thing to do. Gail Kinney, a pastor at the South Danbury Christian Church, asked the committee to think about their friends and fellow community members who make $7.25 an hour. She then read a note from one of her church members, asking whether the opponents of a minimum wage increase have ever scrounged in their car for gas money or had to choose between food and heating their homes.

“I wish there was a way for the nay voters to spend a week with the families who are suffering,” Kinney read from that email.

Caitlin Rollo of Granite State Progress, which supports the bill, told the committee that 72 percent of New Hampshire workers making minimum wage are over the age of 20, according to the Economic Policy Institute, disputing the argument that only teenagers make minimum wage. In total, 59 percent of minimum wage workers are women and 14 percent are parents, she said.

Making a low wage affects housing opportunities as well, said Laurel Redden of Housing Action NH. The definition of “affordability” is for 30 percent of a person’s income to go toward housing, leaving enough left over for food and other necessities, she said. By that definition, someone working 40 hours a week at minimum wage has about $400 a month to spend on housing, yet the median gross rent in the state for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,018 a month, Redden said.

“So you can see where that does not leave a household making minimum wage sufficient income to afford not only rent but other necessities,” she said.

Opponents of the bill also offered suggestions on how to change or amend the bill. State law sets the wage for tipped employees, such as waiters, at 45 percent of the minimum wage, and this bill wouldn’t change that. Kevin Sullivan, a former state representative and chairman of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association, asked the committee to freeze that wage in place at $3.25 an hour because tipped employees already get increases as food prices go up and restaurant bills increase. His teenage daughter would regularly make $80 to $100 a day for working a four-hour shift serving breakfast, he said.

Bruce Berke, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, also suggested that lawmakers add in a “training wage” provision for teenagers who start in entry-level jobs. Several states already have training wages that are separate from minimum wage laws, he said. Berke said a ski area general manager he knows, for example, said he only pays minimum wage to 16- and 17-year-olds.

Ultimately, Berke said, increasing the minimum wage would impose too great a burden on business owners who are already working to navigate new health care costs and other challenges.

The committee has until March 6 to make a recommendation on the bill before sending it to the full House.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

Sail had a great Foundation in DC that feeds him articles everyday.

Democrats, why do you hate the middle class so much? We can't take the burden! I know you think you're taking money from the rich but let me tell you, you're not.

If I had a Master's I wouldn't be working for minimum wage BUT I also don't know her circumstances. Just seems nuts to me.

You got that right Cy. Welcome to the CM where they leave out part of the story to build up their defense. Anyone with a Masters at this women's age should have had a great career with great pay and benefits, 401k etc. The question is why is she not prepared for her retirement with savings and why was the father of her kids not supporting them.

The caption under the picture begins to explain it. She has a master's degree in social work. Human services work, even with a master's, pays poop. For the past 4 year's she's worked part time. Sounds like perhaps the recession had something to do with this. She would certainly not be the only person with an advanced degree to find herself laid off and unable to find equivalent work since.

Raising the minimum wage, is a job killer.

Since When ?

use your google thingy - honestly - why is it so hard for liberals to do their own homework

It's Waltham Watch that needs to do his homework. Making a blanket staement with nothing to back it up is just blowing smoke.

It does not matter if posts are backed up. The left ignores economics and functions on emotions. You never hear the left talk about the fact that McDonalds franchises are individually owned. They are small business. Instead the left harp on the falsehood that McDees is a big corporation. If you raise the minimum wage you will see hours cut back and more unemployment. It does not make sense to pay someone 10 bucks an hour if that person does not generate 10 bucks an hour in revenue. Basic economics. And lets stop the myth that minimum wage jobs are held by folks who have families. That does happen in a recession, but the fact is that the % of folks who work for minimum jobs work part time, are young, and these are entry level jobs not careers. Don't believe me look at the stats from the Labor Dept. I suggest you lefties back up your statements with facts instead of emotions and name calling.

BINGO......so glad to have your back!!!

Regarding "individually owned": The largest BurgerKing franchisee owns 566 restaurants, and its CEO made nearly $2 million last year, helped in no small part by the low wages his company pays its employees. Another BK franchisee is owned by Cerberus Capital. The biggest Pizza Hut franchisee is Olympic Growth Fund V, which bought it from Merrill Lynch Global Private Equity. Wall St. seems to think the fast food industry is a cash cow, and continued minimum wage pay helps assure that more profits “trickle up”. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304723304577370431589231276

one or the other - either you are going to have the Federal one size fits all minimum wage or you have a state by state formula. To have both is just BIG Govt liberal lunacy. If liberals understood Economics in the real world they would have neither

For one who believes in less Federal government involvement where states are concerned, you really surprise me by wanting more Federal government involvement where states are concerned. So which is it?

AGAIN Reading comprehension for liberals - READ the LAST Sentence. LIBERALS SHEEEEEESH !!!!

Sail, I always appreciate your humor and your posts. Yours is one of very few voices of reason on this site.

Thanks - I have a great Foundation in DC that feeds me great articles every day. I am headed to Capitol Hill next month for some face time with our Reps and Senators and will get to develop more insider contacts to feed you all FACTS the left hate.

Sail proves "you are what you eat". Feel free to post the name of the "Foundation". As I recall, 'earthling' used to have a good time making fun of it. I think it had something to do with Isaac Asimov. Or girdles.

When you cant answer the question, deflect it and rant and rave. Right out of the Conservative play book. Conservatives, SHEEEEEESH!!!!

“When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.” ― Socrates

Pot, meet kettle; Kettle, meet pot!

Their is no conservative playbook, the only thing resembling a playbook is the Constitution. We don't go out and round up every special interest group until we have a coalition that resembles the aliens in the bar scene from Star Wars. We welcome everyone who knows that self determination, drive, hard work and persistence betters their life. Playbook? Look to the Left: "if we get this group and convince them that they are treated unfairly, they will vote for us and then we will pit this group against that group and so on". That is a playbook.

You just might want to look up Karl Rove.

Get real. The "conservative playbook", one of the two (the other being Karl Rove's) is laid out right here: http://projects.propublica.org/graphics/koch

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