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$8.30 minimum wage bill is dead after Senate committee vote

SANTA FE – A proposal to raise the minimum wage to $8.30 an hour has been shelved by a Senate committee, and its sponsor said Wednesday that it won’t be revived.

“I was just trying to do something reasonable, and my own party killed it,” said Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants.

The Senate Public Affairs Committee late Tuesday voted 5-1 – with four Democrats and one Republican in the majority – to table the legislation.

New Mexico’s minimum wage is currently $7.50 an hour.

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Sanchez said his bill would have provided at least some relief for workers in rural areas. Minimum hourly wages already are higher than $7.50 in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces.

Many Democrats in both houses back legislation to raise the wage to $10.10, but the Republican-controlled House has axed that plan.

Instead, the House – with all but one Democrat opposed – passed a right-to-work bill last week with a minimum wage of $8 an hour attached to it. It’s pending in the Senate.

Sanchez’s Senate Bill 10, in addition to a wage of $8.30, would have allowed employers to pay a “training wage” of $7.50 an hour to new employees for the first six months. He amended his bill in committee to reduce it to three months, but that didn’t make it any more palatable to opponents.

Committee Chairman Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said the six-month training provision created a loophole “big enough to drive a truck through.” The three-month modification was still “enough for a good-sized sedan,” he told the Journal .

He said New Mexico is decades behind in terms of a fair minimum wage.

The Legislature two years ago – when Democrats controlled both the House and Senate – passed a minimum wage of $8.50 an hour, but Republican Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed it. She indicated later that she might accept something around $8.

In a recent Journal Poll, 70 percent of registered voters surveyed supported of an increase, with half of those polled favoring either $9 or $10 an hour.

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