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UPDATED: Governor vows veto of minimum wage hike

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SANTA FE — Gov. Susana Martinez plans to veto legislation that would increase the state minimum wage to $8.50 per hour, governor’s spokesman Enrique Knell said late Friday.

The bill is headed to Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk after the Senate voted to approve a House version of the bill passed earlier in the day.

Martinez’s Office has repeatedly voiced opposition to the minimum wage increase, saying it would make New Mexico less competitive with neighboring states.

“The minimum wage increase passed by the Senate only makes it harder to hire New Mexico workers,” the Governor’s Office said in a statement.

Senate concurrence was required for Senate Bill 416 after the House changed the bill to reduce a “training wage” exception to the wage to a maximum of six months. The bill passed by the Senate allowed for employers to pay new hires a $7.50 per hour training wage for an employee’s first year on the job.

The increased minimum wage, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2014 if approved by Martinez, would exempt small businesses with fewer than 11 employees, workers younger than 18 and agricultural workers.

“Our state is better served by investing in human capital, and raising the minimum wage is about reducing inequality, but also it’s about restoring the true value of work,” said Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, the House sponsor of the wage increase.

Gov. Susana Martinez’s Office has voiced opposition to the minimum wage increase, saying it would make New Mexico less competitive with neighboring states.

Opponents of the minimum wage increase said the move would hurt the state economy because employers may choose to either increase prices or reduce their workforce to offset increase payroll costs.

House Republican Whip Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, failed at an attempt to reduce the proposed minimum wage increase to $7.80 per hour with an amendment to the bill.

Gentry said that lower wage increase was one the governor would approve because it was in-line with minimum wages in neighboring states.

“If we send a bill up to the governor that gets vetoed, we have accomplished nothing,” Gentry said. “… So let’s not pass a bill that doesn’t get signed and help the workers. In my mind, 30 cents is better than nothing.”

The effort to reduce the minimum wage increase to $7.80 per hour failed on a tied 33-33 vote.

The state’s current $7.50 minimum wage was set in 2009. Since then, voters in Albuquerque and Santa Fe have opted to increase minimum wages to $10.51 per hour in Santa Fe and $8.50 per hour in Albuquerque.

 

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