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Editorial: Latest pay raise is another thud

Following the revelation in February that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had given her inner circle pay raises as high as 21%, the Journal recently learned Environment Secretary James Kenney received an 8% raise this spring.

That’s 8% more than many state employees got.

Kenney’s raise from $156,000 annually to $168,480 makes him the highest-paid member of the governor’s Cabinet. It also shows the benefits of being in good stead with our governor.

The Governor’s Office didn’t announce Kenney’s pay raise, which it should have. Instead it was learned by gleaning New Mexico employee data.

The governor’s press secretary said Kenney’s hourly rate bump from $75 to $81 was intended to reflect his increased duties during the pandemic. Yes, Kenney’s agency coordinated the state’s rapid response program in the workplace. But it was Dr. David Scrase, secretary of the Human Services Department, who led the state’s attack against COVID-19, and former Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel, who cited 14- or 15-hour work days and “sleepless nights” as cause for her retirement last year.

Scrase and current Health Secretary Tracie Collins make $12,480 less a year than Kenney and haven’t received raises during the pandemic.

Kenney’s salary boost also raises questions. For example, the governor’s press secretary says his raise is temporary and may last up to a year. What are those metrics?

Giving 8% to 21% raises during a job-crippling pandemic to eight members of your inner circle and then an 8% raise to one Cabinet member is incredibly tone deaf. It also appears incredibly unfair.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.