By Sarah Scott
In New Hampshire, we have a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the direction our economy is going. Record-low unemployment, record-high workforce participation, record-high revenue from business taxes, and top economic growth in the region make for an environment of opportunity that is lifting Granite Staters up the economic ladder.
Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of a bill that would have raised the state’s minimum wage provides another boost.
Backers of the increase are well-intentioned. But the outcome of raising the minimum wage would be the opposite of their stated desire – fewer jobs and less opportunity.
Every person deserves the opportunity to use their unique talents to provide for their family, contribute to their community and find gratification from their work. The role of state government is to allow for expanded opportunities for workers, not to limit them.
Many business owners take chances by hiring entry-level workers. In assuming this risk, they give some of the youngest and most vulnerable Granite Staters an opportunity to enter a new field and gain valuable knowledge that will assist them in their pursuit of career goals.
Raising the minimum wage would make that much harder.
Researchers at the University of Washington who looked at Seattle’s 2015-16 increase from $9.47 per hour to $13 per hour concluded that it led to about 5,000 workers losing their jobs and to low-wage workers losing an average of $125 a month.
Simply setting a higher minimum without regard to productivity reduces the opportunities for workers to gain experience in a field by limiting employers’ ability to take on more employees and accept the risk of less-experienced workers. The result would be decreased opportunities for those who most need a job and experience to improve their lives.
As the governor said in his veto message:
“I will not be the governor that signs a bill that will lead to lost jobs, cut hours and less money in the pockets of hard working Granite Staters. There is nothing positive about reducing a worker’s chances of getting a job.”
There are better ways to help workers than pricing them out of the labor market. Instead of raising the minimum wage, we should consider more constructive alternatives such as tax and regulatory reforms, and the elimination of many occupational licensing requirements.
Occupational licensing laws cost millions of Americans time and money that could be better spent doing their jobs. Once limited to professions such as doctors and lawyers, some states now require licensing for jobs such as interior designer and fortune teller. One in five New Hampshire workers requires a license or certification from the government to do their jobs. Such requirements do nothing to improve quality or safety, but they do cost millions of jobs.
These are solutions that will set less-experienced workers up for future success and higher wages. Our state’s policy should empower Granite Staters to utilize their unique talents so that they have the best opportunity to find fulfillment in their work, provide for their families and grow in a career.
Gov. Sununu should be applauded for taking the road less traveled in vetoing SB 10, and we encourage him and state legislators to pursue policies that will eliminate other barriers that block the path to success.
Sarah Scott is community engagement director at Americans for Prosperity in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.