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Lujan Grisham pushes higher minimum wage

SANTA FE – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham said Tuesday that she would push to increase New Mexico’s minimum wage to $10 an hour – and even higher in the future – and either eliminate or bump up an annual limit on spending on film tax credits.

Both ideas would represent a departure from the policies of Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican who is barred from seeking a third consecutive term in 2018.

Michelle Lujan Grisham

While other Democrats vying for the 2018 nomination said they largely support the ideas, Albuquerque media executive Jeff Apodaca accused Lujan Grisham of copying some parts of his jobs plan, and state Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces said her proposals lack detail.

Lujan Grisham, a three-term member of the U.S. House from Albuquerque, is one of four Democrats running for governor. She included both the minimum wage hike and the proposed changes to the film rebate program in an economic plan released Tuesday.

“We need to create jobs right away in order to jump-start New Mexico’s economy,” Lujan Grisham said in announcing the plan.

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce of Hobbs, the only GOP candidate in the gubernatorial race, said he would look at Lujan Grisham’s plan, but state Republican Party Chairman Ryan Cangiolosi described it as a “collection of the same old spend-more policies” that Democrats have backed for years.

While New Mexico’s economy has shown recent signs of growth, job creation rates have lagged behind neighboring states in recent years and the issue could be key in next year’s gubernatorial race.

New Mexico has not increased its $7.50-an-hour minimum wage since 2009, though Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces have all enacted minimum wages that are higher than the state’s base rate.

Martinez vetoed two minimum wage bills this year. She also struck down 2013 legislation that would have increased the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, saying at the time that the bill would “kill New Mexico jobs.”

In her plan, Lujan Grisham said she would push to increase the minimum wage to $10 per hour in 2019, and then raise it again to $12 per hour by 2023. Future increases would be tied to inflation.

As for the film incentive program, New Mexico offers a 25 percent tax rebate to film companies for most direct, in-state expenditures, though long-running television programs are eligible for an additional 5 percent credit – or 30 percent in all. Martinez signed legislation in 2011 that enacted an annual $50 million limit on annual film rebate spending, which had been steadily increasing in previous years.

Apodaca has also called for the annual cap to be scrapped and said Tuesday that, if elected, he’d push for an international film school to be built in Santa Fe with a mix of state and industry dollars.

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