Raising state minimum wage could be priority in 2015 legislative session

Heading into the 2015 session of the New Mexico Legislature, there is at least one agreement between Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and Democrats: to raise the state’s $7.50-per-hour minimum wage.

Two bills have been pre-filed by Democrats to do just that. One by Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela of Santa Fe and Sheryl Williams Stapleton of Albuquerque would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, with some exceptions.

The other bill is for an $8.30 minimum wage statewide, sponsored by Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants. It was Sanchez who cast the deciding vote in the Senate Rules Committee during the 2014 session to raise the wage to $8.30, but that never made it to a floor vote. House Democrats pushed for a measure to make the wage increase part of the state constitution, an effort that would have bypassed the governor and gone directly to voters.

That initiative died and no compromise bill was advanced. After the session ended, Martinez said she in fact would have signed an increase that brought the wage to $8 an hour.

Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell said Wednesday that Gov. Martinez still supports that, ”as long as it keeps us competitive in the region and it doesn’t hurt New Mexico small businesses.”

“The fact remains, Democrats rejected a compromise in the last session that would have raised the minimum wage, and we would have a higher minimum wage today if they hadn’t played politics with the issue,” Knell added.

Sanchez is hopeful this will be the session when there can be an agreement to raise the pay for some 85,000 residents estimated to be making $7.50 an hour. “We’ll see,” he said.

The senator, a small-business development consultant in Grants, added, “Most of my businesses already pay more. They pay at least $9.”

On Friday, the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico said increasing the minimum wage will be the group’s top priority in the 2015 session.

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