(The Center Square) – The New Hampshire Senate has rebuffed a Democratic-led proposal to raise the state's minimum wage in a vote that went along party lines.
On Thursday, the Republican-led Senate voted 14-10 to reject Senate Bill 136, which would have increased the state's minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10 on Jan. 1, 2022, and to $12 by Jan. 1, 2024.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfsboro, said the proposal would hurt businesses, cost jobs, "and adversely impact the people it is trying to help."
"Small to midsize businesses would be hurt the most because they would be forced to raise their prices to make up for additional labor costs and likely lay off employees," Bradley said in a statement following the vote. "As our economy continues to get stronger as we come out of the pandemic, we want to create more job opportunities for Granite Staters, not less."
But Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, the bill's main sponsor, said the Senate's rejection of the proposal sends a message that New Hampshire doesn't care about its workers.
"People want to work, and they want to be able to provide for their families," she said in a statement. "Sadly today's vote represented a missed opportunity to help them do just that."
Soucy said the state's low wages are forcing workers to seek employment in other neighboring states, which is also hurting New Hampshire's tax coffers.
The proposal is one of several bills filed by Democrats seeking to raise New Hampshire's stagnant minimum wage, none of which are advancing in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
New Hampshire currently does not have a state minimum wage. It defaults to the current federal rate of $7.25, which hasn't been increased since 2009.
Labor leaders back the changes, saying businesses have been taking advantage of New Hampshire’s low taxes and wages to the detriment of workers, as well as the state government.
But business groups say the move would hurt workers because companies would end up hiring fewer people to offset the increased payroll costs.
Congress was considering a proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour as part of the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, but that provision was stripped from the bill before it landed on President Joe Biden's desk. Biden had voiced support for raising the federal wage but acknowledged there was opposition to the plan among lawmakers.
Such a move would have forced New Hampshire to either accept the $15 per hour federal wage or pass legislation setting a state minimum wage.
A Congressional Budget Office report estimated that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would eliminate 1.4 million jobs, including 13,000 in New Hampshire.