SANTA FE — A bill that would boost the pay of statewide New Mexico elected officials for the first time in more than 20 years is headed to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk for final approval.
The House voted 43-23 on Thursday to approve the measure, Senate Bill 442, that would boost the annual pay of the governor and six other elected officials, including the attorney general, secretary of state and land commissioner.
However, the salary increase for the governor would not kick in until January 2027, meaning Lujan Grisham would not benefit from it. That change was made in the Senate to ensure the governor would not violate state ethics laws by signing the bill. The other salary changes would take effect in mid-June.
During Thursday’s debate, bill supporters said New Mexico lags behind other states in salary levels for top state officials, with the last pay increase taking place in 2002. Since the pay rates for such officials are set by state law, they have also not adjusted for inflation over the last two decades.
“It was absolutely amazing to us over the years that these salaries were so incredibly low,” said Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup.
But critics called the bill self-serving, as all current New Mexico statewide elected officials are Democrats.
“I do personally have an issue with people getting elected and they trying to change the rules,” said Rep. James Townsend, an Artesia Republican.
There have been similar proposals in recent years to raise the pay levels of New Mexico elected officials.
However, former Gov. Susana Martinez in 2018 vetoed a proposal that would have provided a 10% pay raise for statewide officials — a including her successor — and Public Regulation Commission members.
The House vote on this year’s bill broke down largely along party lines, with Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, joining House Democrats on Thursday in voting in favor of the measure. All other Republicans voted in opposition.
Under the bill, the governor’s salary would specifically jump from $110,000 to $169,714 yearly under the proposal — a 54% increase.
The pay levels for other statewide elected officials would increase by an even larger percentage, with the salaries of the state auditor, state treasurer and secretary of state increasing from $85,000 annually to $144,714 per year.
Meanwhile, state employees and teachers are in line for average 6% pay raises under a separate $9.6 billion budget bill that’s also headed to Lujan Grisham’s desk for final approval. Those raises would take effect in July.