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Senate approves bill upping minimum wage for young workers

The state Capitol In Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/ Journal)

SANTA FE — A bill that would scrap an allowable lower minimum wage for New Mexico high-school students is headed to the House after winning approval in the Senate on Thursday.

Senators voted 26-15 along party lines to pass the measure, Senate Bill 35, with majority Democrats voting in favor and Republicans in opposition.

The lower minimum wage — or “training wage” — for high-school students was part of a 2019 minimum wage compromise bill that was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

While the statewide minimum wage is currently $10.50 per hour, it’s set at $8.50 per hour for high-school students.

Backers of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, argued the lower allowable wage should never have been included in the 2019 law.

“There’s no reason for anybody to be paid less to do the same job as their counterparts,” said Sen. Harold Pope Jr., D-Albuquerque.

But critics of the measure said, if approved, it would make it harder for high-school students with little work experience to get jobs.

“It’s not a punishment to anybody — it’s an advantage to them,” said Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington.

New Mexico’s statewide minimum wage is set to gradually increase to $12 per hour by 2023, though cities and counties can enact even higher local rates.


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