SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is keeping a close eye on the minimum wage debate playing out at the Roundhouse.
And the Democratic governor, who has pushed for the state’s $7.50 per hour minimum wage to be increased, has not been swayed by concerns raised by restaurant owners about a proposal that would eliminate a lower allowable wage level for tipped employees.
That provision is included in House Bill 31, a minimum wage bill that would bump New Mexico’s minimum wage up to $10 per hour starting in July – and even higher in future years.
It’s one of several minimum wage measures that have been introduced during the ongoing 60-day session.
“It hasn’t changed my mind about the value of raising the minimum wage for every single New Mexican,” Lujan Grisham told reporters during a Roundhouse news conference on Monday.
The governor, who took office last month, said it’s too early to say whether she would ultimately support the legislation in its current form.
“My goal is not to create harm to small businesses,” she added.
But she also said the data she has seen to date does not bear out the concerns raised by restaurant owners, which include references to eateries closing, laying off employees or having to fundamentally change to self-serve business models.
Under current state law, the minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13 per hour. But some restaurant employees have testified they end up making much more than the minimum wage when tips are factored into the equation.
During a House committee last week, numerous restaurant owners and employees showed up to urge lawmakers to oppose the proposed elimination of the lower wage floor for tipped employees.
But other restaurant workers testified in support, and Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, the bill’s sponsor, pointed out federal law prohibits employers from taking employees’ tips.
The bill passed the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee via a party-line vote and could be debated on the House floor sometime this week.
“This is a debate worth having at the federal level, and it’s a debate worth having here,” Lujan Grisham said of the minimum wage, which has not been increased in New Mexico since 2009.