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Bernalillo County leaders to consider minimum wage increase

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Workers in unincorporated Bernalillo County who earn minimum wage would receive a few extra dollars in their paychecks come Jan. 1 under a proposal slated to be voted on by Bernalillo County commissioners tonight.

The measure calls for a 15-cent cost of living increase. If approved, the county’s minimum wage would go from $8.70 to $8.85 an hour beginning Jan. 1.

For a full-time worker, the raise would amount to an extra $312 a year.

The County Commission meeting begins at 5 p.m. at the commission chambers in the basement of City Hall.

The minimum wage law adopted by the county in 2013 requires commissioners to consider cost of living adjustments every year, based on the inflation rate. Staff is recommending the 15-cent increase based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index.

But County Commissioner Wayne Johnson said the commission has the discretion to reject the increase being proposed.

“I’m not going to be supporting it,” Johnson said.

Johnson and Commissioner Lonnie Talbert, both Republicans, voted against the Minimum Wage Ordinance in 2013.

Johnson said he’s not a fan of increasing the minimum wage because it ends up hurting people, making it more difficult for first-time employees to get a job, for example. But he said he’s glad the county’s minimum wage law requires cost of living increases to be brought before the commission rather than going into effect automatically.

Messages left for Commission Chairwoman Debbie O’Malley and Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins on Monday weren’t immediately returned.

The county’s minimum wage ordinance covers the unincorporated areas, or the land outside city limits. According to staff, there are about 1,400 active businesses covered by the ordinance.

County staff reports that there are currently 26 county employees making less than $8.85 an hour. If commissioners approved the increase, the county would spend about $4,500 more a year on payroll.

Two other cost of living adjustments have been adopted since commissioners enacted the current Minimum Wage Ordinance in 2013.

In January 2015, the county minimum wage went from $8.50 to $8.65 an hour. And in January 2017, it went from $8.65 to the current $8.70.

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