U.S. Senate Hopefuls Differ On Wage Issue

Tuesday, September 02, 2014
Concord — None of the top Republicans running for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire wants to increase the federal minimum wage, and one of them wants to get rid of it altogether.

President Obama has made increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 a second-term political priority, and he signed an executive order in February requiring federal contractors to pay their workers at least that much. But many Republicans oppose the increase, including former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, former New Hampshire U.S. Sen. Bob Smith and former state Sen. Jim Rubens.

They are among 10 candidates competing in the Sept. 9 Republican primary, with the winner taking on U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in November.

Brown said he supports the minimum wage and has voted for increases in the past, but doesn’t think it should be raised now.

“I believe we should get the input of the employer community before imposing new or higher burdens on them,” he said.

Smith went further, saying “The federal government has no business dictating what an employer pays an employee in the private marketplace,” while Rubens said increasing the minimum wage would lead to job losses and automation.

A better-targeted Earned Income Tax Credit would do more to lift low-income workers out of poverty than a higher minimum wage, said Rubens.

“Compared with other industrial nations, the U.S. has lost the war on poverty because our spending on anti-poverty programs is poorly targeted and relies more heavily on bureaucratic interventions than direct cash grants that support work and family stability,” he said.

Asked by The Associated Press what Congress could do to address the nation’s growing wealth gap and the middle class, all three called for cutting corporate taxes and reducing burdensome regulations.

Rubens pointed to his six-point plan to increase domestic manufacturing and good-paying jobs, which also includes eliminating federal energy subsidies and repealing the federal health care overhaul law. Brown also said repealing the health law would create an environment that allows businesses to grow, while Smith said he rejects the notion of a “class structure.”

“There are wealthy and poor and many in the middle, but they all have the opportunity to move up or down,” he said. “The best way for people to move up from the poor to the middle to the wealthy is for Congress to cut their personal taxes to allow them to have more money to spend to improve their lives.”

In New Hampshire, the Legislature eliminated the state’s minimum wage law in 2011, which means the federal minimum wage is the state’s minimum. In May, the Republican-controlled state Senate killed a bill that would have set the state minimum wage at $8.25 next year and $9 in 2016.

A University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll released in February found 76 percent of residents favored the increase. While support was strongest among Democrats, 64 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of independents also were in favor.

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