Senator Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, will carry the bill that would make New Mexico’s minimum wage the fourth-highest in the nation. The bill would bring the entirety of New Mexico in line with Albuquerque, the state’s largest city, which currently has an $8.50 per hour minimum wage.
The city of Santa Fe, the state’s fourth-largest city, is at $10.29 per hour. The statewide minimum wage is $7.50, a quarter-per-hour more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
The push by Democrats is among their proposals to help the New Mexico economy. Democrats had said they would introduce the legislation as part of their jobs package, but formally announced the introduction of the bill in Monday press conference involving Democratic leaders from both chambers.
A study released by New Mexico Voices for Children backed the proposed wage increase.
Poverty is one of New Mexico’s most severe problems. Raising wages is a critical step towards ending poverty. The hourly wage required to bring the income of a family of three up to the federal poverty level is $9.25. Raising the New Mexico minimum wage to $8.50 an hour and indexing it the CPI would add about $2,000 to a working adult’s annual income, bringing a family of three closer to—but still below—the federal poverty threshold.
The study says that 137,000 New Mexico workers would benefit from a $1.00 increase in the minimum wage — and finds that 76 percent of those would be adults.
The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, a prominent business group in the state, opposes the minimum wage increase just as it opposed the minimum wage increase that easily was approved by Albuquerque voters in November.
Republicans also oppose the move to increase the minimum wage, saying it would hurt the low-income families it is designed to help.
The minimum wage increase would put New Mexico only behind Washington, Oregon and Vermont when it comes to guaranteed wages for workers.
Another proposal by Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, would index the minimum wage to the consumer price index published by the United States Labor Department.
New Mexico’s current hourly minimum wage rate would need to be $8.03 if it was adjusted for inflation since 2009, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.
Garcia’s proposal would not need to get the signature of the governor — he proposes a constitutional amendment, which, if it passes the legislature, would allow voters to decide if they would like to keep the indexing.