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State workers to start receiving delayed raises

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SANTA FE – The salaries of about 6,000 New Mexico state workers will be adjusted starting next month to reflect pay raises that were approved in 2008 but not fully implemented at the time, a top budget official in Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration said Wednesday.

The salary adjustments – most raises will be between 13 cents and 50 cents per hour – are the first part of a two-part approach to resolving the issue.

Lump-sum back payments, totaling the amount of extra pay eligible employees should have received from 2008 through this year, will be the second part. Those payments are expected to be sent out by this summer.

Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford told members of a key legislative panel Wednesday that some state agencies might overspend their allocated budgets this year because lawmakers did not authorize more money for back pay.

“We’re putting some of these agencies in a position that they may be looking at a deficiency,” Clifford said.

The state Supreme Court ruled in May 2013 that about 10,000 union-covered workers were owed back pay due to raises that were negotiated in collective bargaining agreements with the administration of former Gov. Bill Richardson. During the past six years, about 4,000 of those employees have retired or left their jobs for other reasons, according to DFA.

Those employees will also be eligible for the back pay.

The affected employees were to have received raises ranging from 3 percent to 5.5 percent starting in mid-2008. Instead, they received raises of 2.9 percent.

Union leaders had pressured the Martinez administration in recent months to commit to a date the back-pay checks will be issued.

Shane Youtz, an attorney who argued the Supreme Court case on behalf of two labor unions, told members of the Legislative Finance Committee that affected employees have waited years for the issue to be resolved.

“We’re happy we’re getting to the finish line,” Youtz said. “I think they’ll be happy when they actually see the checks come.”

Martinez, the state’s first-term Republican governor, recommended $20 million for the worker back pay in her budget recommendation earlier this year.

However, just $2.7 million for that purpose was ultimately included in a $6.2 billion budget for the coming year that was approved by lawmakers.

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