SANTA FE – A clash over raising New Mexico’s minimum wage intensified late Wednesday as the state House refused to accept a Senate bill and instead adopted an amended version.
The sponsor of the Senate measure, however, has opposed the House amendment – setting up the possibility of more negotiation as the bill goes back to the Senate.
Democratic Rep. Miguel P. Garcia of Albuquerque urged his House colleagues to support the amended version of the bill, which is more generous than the Senate version.
It would phase in a $12 minimum wage by 2022, with inflation-adjusted increases after that. The annual increases would be limited to 3 percent or less.
The Senate-approved version called for $11 per hour by 2022, with no indexing to inflation after that.
But Garcia said the Senate proposal wouldn’t do enough for minimum-wage workers. The last time New Mexico officials agreed to change the minimum was in 2007, he said, meaning employees would be left behind without automatic increases.
“Our minimum-wage workers are working two or three jobs,” Garcia said, and they deserve a chance to spend more time with their families.
The House amendment to the Senate proposal leaves intact some of the components of the Senate version as a measure of compromise, Garcia said.
It allows a lower minimum wage of $8.50 an hour for students working after-school jobs, as proposed originally by the Senate sponsor, Democratic Sen. Clemente “Meme” Sanchez of Grants.
Sanchez hasn’t given any indication he wants to negotiate. He told a House committee earlier this week that he didn’t support the amendment sponsored by Garcia.
The clash over the minimum wage is just one of several playing out in the session this year. The House and Senate have adopted different versions of ethics and budget legislation, and they are brewing disputes over tax increases and revising the teacher evaluation system.
House Republicans on Wednesday urged their Democratic colleagues to stick with the Senate minimum wage bill.
“I think the Senate version is a safer approach,” Rep. James Strickler, R-Farmington, said during debate on the House floor.
It would be a 60 percent increase in the minimum wage, he said, to go from $7.50 an hour now to $12 an hour in 2022.
Businesses “can’t afford this,” Strickler said. “I think it’s going to hurt more than help because it’s such a big jump.”
The amended version of the proposal, Senate Bill 437, passed on a 43-21 vote, sending it back to the Senate.
“Raising the minimum wage is about workers,” Garcia said. “This legislation will have only positive impacts on the economy.”
Garcia sponsored the main amendment outlining the increases in the minimum wage. It would climb to $10 an hour at the beginning of 2020, $11 in 2021 and $12 an hour in 2022.
The House also adopted an amendment sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, requiring the state to increase reimbursement to state contractors affected by the increased minimum wage.
Under the proposal, the wage for tipped workers would be set at 30 percent of the new statewide minimum.
It wouldn’t pre-empt local wage ordinances.
Santa Fe, for example, has an hourly minimum of $11.40, the highest in the state. Las Cruces has a $10.10 minimum wage, and Albuquerque’s is $9.20.
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who took office Jan. 1, has repeatedly urged lawmakers to raise the minimum wage.
Her predecessor, Republican Susana Martinez, repeatedly vetoed proposed increases in the minimum.