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Both sides vote against bill raising minimum wage to $8

SANTA FE – The Senate Public Affairs Committee on Thursday halted one of several pieces of legislation aimed at raising the minimum wage – this one by 50 cents to $8 per hour.

Several Democrats on the committee said Senate Bill 285, sponsored by Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, wouldn’t do enough. Some Republicans said the additional 50 cents per hour would be too much.

The committee tabled the Sanchez bill on an 6-2 vote.

“I think we all would like to pay people and employees higher than that, but we also have to consider what our economy is,” Sanchez said. “Our economy is not doing that well right now. I think this, in my mind, is a compromise to help that person who needs a little bit.”

The state’s minimum wage currently is $7.50 per hour, although several municipalities, including Albuquerque and Santa Fe, have established higher rates.

Gov. Susana Martinez last year vetoed a similar bill that would have increased the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour with exceptions for small businesses and businesses hiring workers in training. The governor said the Legislature should raise the minimum wage to no higher than $7.80 per hour.

The minimum $8 per hour proposal is one of several pieces of legislation being considered this session to raise the state’s minimum wage. Other options range from $10 to $12 per hour. Still another option would amend the state constitution to provide routine increases of the minimum wage.

“I just have a real problem with the $8. I don’t feel that number makes any kind of headway,” said Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque.

Republican Sen. Ron Griggs, of Alamogordo, said the $8 proposal was more palatable, but still put too much burden on business owners.

“I come closer to liking yours than any others that I’ve heard out there,” Griggs said.

Sens. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, and Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, were the two senators who voted in favor of the bill.