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Granite State Rumblings: We Must Increase The Minimum Wage And Details Of Sen. Watters Min Wage Challenge

The state minimum wage bill (HB1403) comes before the full Senate this Thursday, May 8th. HB 1403 would increase the state’s minimum wage in two steps, $8.25 per hour in 2015 and then to $9.00 per hour in 2016, and then ensure that it keeps pace with the cost of living moving forward.

minimum wageThis is an important piece of legislation for Granite State workers as they struggle to make ends meet each and every day. Raising the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour by 2016 would increase the wages, either directly or indirectly, of nearly 76,000 New Hampshire workers, resulting in an additional $64 million in wages, in the aggregate, being put into the state’s economy over the next two years. (source; NHFPI)

NH District 04 Senator, David Watters, saw how difficult it is to live on a minimum wage job when he took part in the Minimum Wage Challenge this past weekend in Dover with ECM-NH’s Field Director, MacKenzie Flessas. (See photos and read about it in Growing Up Granite below).

Over the past several months, five states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, and West Virginia – have enacted legislation to increase their minimum wages, according to an article posted by the NH Fiscal Policy Institute.

The report continues by informing us that Delaware’s wage standard will soon begin climbing towards $8.25 an hour, West Virginia’s will grow to $8.75 per hour, and, for some Minnesota employers, the wage floor will be set at $9.50 per hour. In Connecticut and Maryland, the minimum wage will eventually reach $10.10 per hour. As a result, by 2016, half of the states and the District of Columbia will have minimum wages above the current federal standard of $7.25 per hour.

It is important to note that those states that have – or will have – a minimum wage in excess of the federal level tend to have something in common: a relatively high cost of living, as does New Hampshire.

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center’s (MERIC) research indicates that the cost of living in New Hampshire was close to 21 percent above the national average in 2013, driven principally by housing, utility, and health costs. The NHFPI article quotes The National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s recent Out of Reach report confirming how difficult it can be to meet some of these costs in the Granite State. It finds that New Hampshire was the 11th most expensive state in the country for renters in 2014.

As NHFPI Executive Director, Jeff McLynch pointed out in is testimony before the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee in February, “ in considering an increase in New Hampshire’s minimum wage, two claims are commonly made in opposition.  Neither have merit.”

“First, some maintain that the primary beneficiaries of any minimum wage increase would be teenagers.  ….an analysis of Current Population Survey data by the Economic Policy Institute reveals that 72 percent of the workers who would see a wage increase from a $9.00 per hour minimum wage are adults.  For many low-wage workers, their job is not a “starter” position or a “foot in the door.”  For many of them, their personal economic circumstances demand that they take whatever job they can find, simply to put a roof over their head, a jacket on their back, and food on the table – either just for themselves or for their family.”

“Second, others have argued, in keeping with traditional criticisms, that raising New Hampshire’s minimum wage will reduce employment.  Needless to say, this question has been explored for decades, but the most recent, high quality studies on the relationship between state minimum wages and employment levels find little evidence to suggest that raising New Hampshire’s minimum wage will produce large-scale job losses.  For instance, a 2010 study conducted by researchers from the University of Massachusetts, the University of North Carolina, and the University of California examined state minimum wage increases during the period from 1990 to 2006 using data from nearly 300 bordering counties that had differentials in their minimum wages.  It concludes that: ‘[Our] estimates suggest no detectable employment losses from the kind of minimum wage increases we have seen in the United States…’”
See more at: http://www.nhfpi.org/research/nhfpi-testifies-support-increase-nh-minimum-wage.html#sthash.e2pklkci.dpuf

Every Child Matters in New Hampshire agrees with the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, our partner organizations in the Raise the Wage coalition and 76% of Granite State residents that it is time to raise the minimum wage in New Hampshire. Doing so will help families make ends meet, boost sales at businesses across the State, and put New Hampshire on a path towards an economy that works for everyone.

If you agree, please call your Senator today and let him/her know to support HB1403 on Thursday.

The Minimum Wage Challenge

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ECM – NH Field Director MacKenzie Flessas and State Senator David Watters

This past weekend, Senator David Watters (District 4-Dover) and I sat down to talk about the challenges that families who are living on minimum wage face everyday in our state. The weekly wage for a minimum wage worker who works full-time is $290 before taxes.

Senator Watters was given a worksheet to divide his weekly expenses given his new minimum wage income. For the purpose of this exercise, it was assumed that Sen. Watters was currently receiving Food Stamps as a single person. The maximum amount of this assistance is $5.45 per day.

So we went into the grocery store with a budget of $38.10 (a week’s worth of Food Stamps benefits)

We began in the Produce section. While looking at the fresh vegetables, Sen. Watters said “I know I need vegetables, but I’m not sure if I can afford it yet.” I followed him around the store as he tried to make a meal plan for the week, settling for meals like eggs, bread and peanut butter, and pasta and sauce. At one point he was given the choice of feeding his cat or buying fresh vegetables. A compromise had to be made. One day a week of no food for his beloved cat would enable him to purchase broccoli. “Fresh food is too expensive for me.”

We checked out and came up with a total of $36.91. (84 cents under budget)  Senator Watters commented, “At times I just felt desperate. I no longer cared about brands, I only needed to look at prices.” He also recognized that he did not buy some essential items that he would need to purchase eventually, such as sugar, cooking oil, flour and dish soap.

And by the way, several of his purchases today are not allowable under the food stamps benefit: cat food, toothpaste, and shampoo, so they had to be paid for from his minimum wage earnings.

“I don’t know what I would do week after week, it would grind me down. It makes me understand what this is all about.”

As I reflect upon this challenge with Senator Watters, I think, what would families in our state do without these essential assistance programs? Even with the small amount of help that Sen. Watters was receiving during his Minimum Wage Challenge (housing assistance, heating assistance, food stamps, and Medicaid,) he was still not able to have a positive balance of money at the end of the month.

With more than 42,000 children in our state living in poverty, and for whom many of their families are making minimum wage or just above, I know that investing in an increase in minimum wage will give families the basic necessities that they need to grow healthy, productive children, which is an investment in New Hampshire’s future.

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The full Senate will vote on the increase in Minimum Wage on Thursday May 8th. I urge our Senators to stand up for the most vulnerable people in our state, the 15.6% of children living in poverty, and vote Ought to Pass on the Minimum Wage increase, HB1403.

Thank you Senator Watters for having the courage to take the challenge.

MacKenzie

To see what Senator Watters thought about the Minimum Wage Challenge view this YouTube Video.

Here is what Senator Watters bought with his weekly food allowance of $38.10:

Item Price  Balance
$37.75
10lb bag potatoes $4.99 $32.76
3lb onions $2.89 $29.87
Carrots $1.50 $28.37
1/2 Gallon milk $2.59 $25.78
Eggs $1.89 $23.89
Bread $1.79 $22.10
2lbs Chicken $1.26 $20.84
1/2 lb Cheese $2.78 $18.06
Linguine $1.39 $16.67
Rotini $1.39 $15.28
Canned tomatoes $1.99 $13.29
Cat food $4.50 $8.79
Shampoo $1.49 $7.30
Toothpaste $1.49 $5.81
Peanut butter $2.89 $2.92
Broccoli $2.89 $0.03
$36.91 ended up being the total, so something might have been on sale. $.84 left over from Food Budget

 

 

 

 

 

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About MaryLou Beaver

New Hampshire Campaign Director Every Child Matters Education Fund
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