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Panel passes 10% raises for elected NM officials

SANTA FE – A state budget bill that’s expected to be voted on later this week in a key House committee will feature 10 percent salary increases for New Mexico’s governor, attorney general, secretary of state and other elected officials.

However, a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez, who supports targeted pay raises for state employees and teachers but not across-the-board increases, suggested the governor will tell lawmakers “no thanks” to the proposed pay bump.

The provision was adopted Monday by the House Appropriations and Finance Committee without objection, though no formal roll call vote was taken. It will be included as part of a $6.1 billion state budget plan that could be voted on by as soon as Thursday.

Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela of Santa Fe, the committee’s deputy chairman, said the salary hikes in the spending bill would be in addition to pay raises for all state employees and teachers of roughly 3 percent.

However, a Martinez spokesman said the Republican governor favors targeting pay raises at specific state positions.

“The governor … is focusing her attention on salary increases for employees in positions that are difficult to recruit and retain, like child protective services caseworkers, adult and juvenile probation officers, and adult and juvenile correctional officers, as well as pay raises for entering and highly effective teachers,” Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell said.

Salary levels for state officials are set by law and have not been increased since 2003.

Under Varela’s proposal, the governor’s salary would jump from $110,000 per year to $121,000 – an increase of 10 percent.

The secretary of state, attorney general, auditor, treasurer, commissioner of public lands, and Public Regulation Commission members would also get 10 percent salary hikes.

Rep. Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, voiced concern Monday that the increase in pay for elected officials, in addition to the broad-based salary increases for state employees and teachers, would amount to 38 percent of new state spending for the coming fiscal year.