Paul Hodes: If Gov. gets a raise, so should lower-income workers

For the Monitor
Published: 1/21/2017 11:30:33 PM

Serving the public in New Hampshire requires financial sacrifice from its servants. Here in New Hampshire, our legislators are paid $100 a year plus mileage. Our governor has long been paid a comparatively low wage in comparison to other states, not to mention relative to private sector executive wages.

Still, it came as quite a surprise when Gov. Chris Sununu elected to accept a $20,000 pay raise among his very first acts in office. Even when I served as a congressman in dysfunctional Washington, members routinely voted against congressional pay raises as a matter of principle. As a practical matter, the governor’s pay raise, to something north of $132,000, won’t break the bank or bust the budget. But, what does it say about the governor’s sensitivity to the working people of our state?

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that does not have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage dictates. Gov. Sununu opposes setting a higher state minimum wage, which is set to remain at $7.25 through 2018. For a full-time minimum wage worker in New Hampshire, that means $15,080 per year, which is slightly above the poverty line of $14,570 per year for a family of two. Gov. Sununu accepted a bigger pay raise than a New Hampshire minimum wage earner makes in a year. That’s not just bad politics. It’s bad policy.

New Hampshire needs a well-educated, healthy, motivated and productive work force and energy innovation to attract business, keep young people in the state and stay competitive in the modern era. A poverty level minimum wage is bad for economic opportunity.

If New Hampshire is to stay in front as a business friendly state, we need more than tax cuts to attract and keep business. We need state policies that truly value work and workers. If the governor deserves a pay raise, then why don’t the hard working people of the state? If it’s time for a pay raise for the governor to live on, then it’s time for a living wage for New Hampshire’s lowest paid workers.

(Paul Hodes lives in Concord. He represented New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District in Washington for two terms.)

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