Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, D-Las Cruces, was the swing vote and the lone Democrat to vote against the joint resolution. She explained that she did not believe this bill belonged in the state constitution.
Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, proposed the legislation and said it would help those making minimum wage keep up with inflation in the country.
Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, said the minimum wage is not something that the states should be involved in, but should be left to the federal government.
“This is something that is best left to our federal legislators,” Rehm said.
Congress is considering a proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 per hour — and index it to inflation.
Nineteen states currently have minimum wages that are above the $7.25 federal minimum wage, including New Mexico. Ten of those states include tying the minimum wage to some sort of cost of living adjustment — including neighboring states of Colorado and Arizona.
Carter Bundy, the political and legislative director for AFSCME in New Mexico, said that raising the minimum wage would help the economy because the low-wage workers would spend the money in local communities.
“When you’re making that little money, you’re going to spend it,” Bundy said. Bundy served as the expert witness on the legislation.
Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, opposed the minimum wage increase and said it would hurt low-income workers.
“There were times in my life where I was working two jobs and they both were minimum wage,” Youngblood said. “Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get by.”
One reason that Republicans opposed the legislation is that they believed it did not belong as a constitutional amendment, as Mary Helen Garcia said.
The committee had earlier voted on an amendment to cap how much the minimum wage could be increased.
The amendment to the legislation that capped the increase at four percent was considered a compromise but was nevertheless opposed by a number of the public who attended the meeting.
Bill Jordan, the policy director for the New mexico Voices for Children, opposed the amendment even as he supported the overall legislation.
“It’s turned into a debate about how much we should limit how much the poor make,” Jordan said.