Sunday, November 20, 2005
Dems Outline Major Goals; Minimum Wage of $7.50 An Hour Among 'Guiding Principles'
By Jeff Jones
Journal Staff Writer
SANTA FE If the New Mexico Democratic Party has its way, all state high school graduates will one day be bilingual, all workers will be paid at least $7.50 an hour and two embattled wild areas Otero Mesa and the Valle Vidal will stay wild.
The Democratic party's central committee during its fall business meeting at Santa Fe Community College passed a series of resolutions, three of which call for a boost in the state's minimum wage, support mandatory proficiency in a second language and back protections for the wild areas.
During the meeting, the party also announced that party spokesman Matt Farrauto has been named acting executive director, replacing Vanessa Alarid.
Alarid has stepped down to pursue a doctorate's degree in political science.
The list of resolutions that passed without debate on Saturday are now among "our guiding principles," Farrauto said of the party. "It's to help define what the Democratic Party believes in and stands up for."
The central committee consists of about 350 Democrats from every county in the state.
The current minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. But a proposed increase will likely be on lawmakers' plates when the state Legislature convenes in January: House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, is among those supporting an increase to $7.50 per hour and has said the higher wage will be a top priority in the upcoming session.
Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson also supports an increased minimum wage.
Richardson and state Attorney General Patricia Madrid, a fellow Democrat, have filed a lawsuit to limit oil and gas drilling at Otero Mesa in southern New Mexico.
Another battle is being waged over proposed methane gas drilling on the Valle Vidal in the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico.
Another resolution passed by the central committee on Saturday asks for a study on the comparative costs of various universal health-care systems in New Mexico.