While 33 voted for and 29 voted against, a proposed constitutional amendment requires a majority of the entire chamber, 36 votes.
The proposal would have asked voters to approve raising the minimum wage annually based on the Consume Price Index. It would also backdate this to 2009, putting it near $8.40 per hour when it goes into effect in July of 2015.
“Economists agree across the board raising the minimum wage across the board is good for economic growth,” Majority Whip Moe Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said.
“The market does work,” Rep. James Strickler, R-Farmington, said. He said that in Midland, Texas, a McDonalds was paying $15 per hour — but went out of business because oil fields were paying $20 per hour.
He said that if there was legislation to raise the minimum wage to $8.00 per hour and tie it to the CPI that it would have a good chance of passing the chamber.
“I don’t think I saw a message for a raise in the minimum wage,” Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, said. In a short, 30-day session a message is needed from the governor on all issues that don’t relate to the budget.
Republicans accused Democrats of using the constitutional amendment issue as a way to have an “end run” around the governor. The governor does not get a say in a constitutional amendment — at least not more than any other voter in the state. It would skip Martinez and go straight to voters in November.
“The primary consideration is let’s put this on a ballot in November to spur turnout,” Gentry said.
He and other Republicans said they know it would be a popular initiative.
“If we know that the people of the state want this, that we know it will be popular, who are we to stand in the way of what they want?” Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, said.
Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Farmington, said that a serious problem with the minimum wage as a constitutional amendment is that if something needs to be fixed it can’t for two years.
Gentry brought up that an Albuquerque city councilor was willing to look into changing that city’s minimum wage increase that voters approved. City councilor Ken Sanchez looked at adding a limit on the indexing. The proposed constitutional amendment would include a cap of four percent on annual increases.
Garcia said that those who crafted the bill did something that Albuquerque and Santa Fe did not. “We put a cap on what can be indexed,” Garcia said.
Rep. Sandra Jeff, D-Crownpoint, was called by Vice President Joe Biden, who urged her to vote for the legislation. Jeff denied that Biden called her.
Jeff did not vote on the bill.
Rep. Dona Irwin, D-Deming, was the only Democrat who voted against the legislation. All Republicans voted against it or did not vote.
“I just can’t feel the rebound effect on this is going to jump up and bite us in the you-know-what,” Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell said.
A familiar claim about Santa Fe’s minimum wage was made on the floor — that the Santa Fe New Mexican moved their printing presses to Santa Fe County to avoid the minimum wage. This time it was Ezzell.
But that’s “absolutely not true,” New Mexican publisher Ginny Sohn said Tuesday. “We pay everyone at New Mexican Plaza the living wage or better, despite the fact that we are in the county and we’re not required to. We did it because it is the right thing to do.”
“Democrats fought every step of the way to pass a minimum wage increase for New Mexico working families,” Speaker of the House Ken Martinez, D-Grants, said in a statement following the vote. “Republicans voted no.”
“We are disappointed but not deterred,” he continued. “We won’t stop fighting for New Mexico families. We will come back next year, and every year after, until this is done.”