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$9 minimum wage bill sent to governor

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez now has a minimum wage bill to consider.

And another might yet reach her desk before the session ends.

The state House late Thursday passed a bill that would phase in a $9 minimum wage over the next year – a 20 percent increase over the $7.50 minimum established about a decade ago.

The proposal already won Senate approval, meaning it now goes to the governor for her consideration.

A $9.25 minimum wage – also approved by the House – is pending on the Senate side.

As for Thursday’s proposal, Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, described it as a reasonable step forward.

“I don’t think we’re raising it drastically,” he told his colleagues Thursday.

The proposal, Senate Bill 386, would raise the minimum wage in two steps – first to $8.25 in October and then $9 six months later, in April.

It also would allow a training wage of $8 an hour when an employee is learning on the job. The training period couldn’t last more than 60 days.

The House endorsed the proposal 41-27. It picked up some Republican support.

But GOP legislators from rural areas spoke against it. They said it could lead to layoffs, price increases and other unintended consequences.

Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia, said the minimum wage was always intended to be “a starting point.”

“It is not meant to be an all-in career,” he said.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants.

“We put a minimum wage increase on Gov. Martinez’s desk that is line with neighboring states, is supported by both the labor and business communities, and gives New Mexico families a meaningful raise,” Sanchez said in a written statement. “When hardworking New Mexicans who work full time have to choose between buying groceries or buying medicine, it’s clear we have got to do better.”

A separate proposal is circulating in the Senate.

House Bill 442 calls for $9.25 an hour as a minimum, but it also includes a provision blocking local labor ordinances regulating employee work schedules, which is not in the Senate bill.

It’s sponsored by five Democrats – Debbie Rodella of Española, House Speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe, Trujillo, Patricio Ruiloba of Albuquerque and Miguel Garcia of Albuquerque.

Neither bill would affect local minimum wage ordinances in place in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. Santa Fe’s minimum wage is the state’s highest – $11.08 an hour.

Among neighboring states, Arizona and Colorado currently have minimum wages in excess of $9 an hour, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. However, the minimum wages of Texas, Oklahoma and Utah are all set at the federal minimum – $7.25 an hour.