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Raising the Minimum Wage and Rebuilding the American Dream

Op-Ed

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Raising the Minimum Wage and Rebuilding the American Dream

Today, July 24th, millions of Americans will get a pay raise. It has been 10 years

since American workers have seen an increase in the federal minimum wage. This increase is a down-payment on a broader agenda for families who work for a living, including making college more affordable, reducing energy costs, tax relief for middle and low-income Americans, and expanding children's health coverage—all in a fiscally responsible budget.

Nationwide, nearly 13 million hard-working Americans will benefit from raising the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour. Beginning today, here in New Hampshire , 16,000 workers will see a direct increase in their hourly pay. The 70 cent raise from $5.15 today will be followed by two 70 cent increases in July 2008 and July 2009. This comes at a critical time when families are living paycheck to paycheck, with record prices at the pump, skyrocketing health care costs and the rising cost of college squeezing hard-working Granite Staters as they struggle to make ends meet.

Rising consumer costs have hit low-wage workers especially hard as the purchasing power of the minimum wage has plummeted to its lowest level in more than half a century. At $5.15 an hour, a full-time minimum wage worker brought home just $10,712 this year - barely above the federal poverty level for one person and nearly $6,000 below the poverty level for a family of three. Nearly half of low-wage workers in families with children are the sole breadwinner for their household.

This effort is about more than just economics; it is about valuing families. This raise will help 7.4 million women and 3.3 million parents, with about 6 million children seeing their parents' income rise. This pay raise is critical to the families making the supreme sacr if ice for our nation. Nearly 50,000 military families will benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour.

The increase of $2.10 an hour will give families like these an additional $4,400 a year to meet critical needs. That's 15 months of groceries, over two years of health care, 19 months of utilities, or 20 months of child care.

I believe an honest day's work deserves a fair day's pay - period. Increasing the minimum wage for the first time in ten years is the right thing to do for New Hampshire 's workers.


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