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Santa Fe Wage Boost To Make History

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Santa Fe and San Francisco are poised to make history in the new year, with locally imposed mandatory minimum wages of above $10 an hour.

Santa Fe’s wage rate is expected to go up to about $10.15 an hour, according to Consumer Price Index data from the first 10 months of the year showing a 3 percent increase. That would add about 30 cents to the current $9.85 hourly minimum.

San Francisco’s hourly wage for its lowest-paid workers will hit $10.24, more than $2 above the California minimum wage and nearly $3 more than the working wage set by the federal government. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. New Mexico’s and Albuquerque’s is $7.50 an hour.

San Francisco and Santa Fe approved higher minimum wages in 2003 that require the cities to increase the minimum wage based on a cost of living formula. There is no mechanism for it to go down, even during recessionary times.

Some employers maintain it could lead to layoffs by small businesses already forced to pay federal, state and city payroll taxes as well as other city-mandated taxes.

Steve Falk, president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, said that by the time you add up all the mandates and taxes that employers must pay for their minimum-wage workers, the payroll burden is at least 25 to 40 percent higher than in other Bay Area cities.

Albuquerque restaurateur Maxime Bouneou, who owns Torinos’ at Home with his wife, Daniela, in Albuquerque’s Journal Center, said they moved their eatery from Santa Fe in 2009 in large part because of the already high minimum wage.

“We moved because we were not able to afford any employees,” Maxime Bouneou told the Journal. “It’s ridiculous.”

The high Santa Fe minimum wage makes it harder for employers to offer jobs, he said, adding that they were down to two part-time employees when they finally decided to move. They employ 12 people at their Albuquerque location.

“We run a bigger company and employ more people,” he said. “We are doing dinner as well, and we can achieve all that because we can employ more people. We can grow, which we found was hard to do in Santa Fe.”

Simon Brackley, president of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, said the minimum wage means businesses pass the costs along to customers, which causes a higher cost of living and inevitably makes “us less competitive with the other communities.”

The chamber’s position remains that “Santa Fe businesses should be governed by state labor law mandates like the rest of the state.”

Santa Fe’s minimum wage was $8.50 when it was passed by the City Council in 2003. Changes in 2007 called for raises based on the Consumer Price Index for “urban wage earners and clerical workers” in the Western region of the country.

Santa Fe’s minimum wage went to $9.85 an hour in 2010. Under the requirements of its ordinance, it should have been raised to $9.99 an hour for 2011, but city officials failed to notice and make the change.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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