New Mexico minimum wage hike clears the Senate

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FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, file photo, Elizabeth Long, a Smoothie Stop employee, pours a smoothie at the YMCA in Charleston, W. Va. On Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, payroll processor ADP reports how many jobs private employers added in January. (Sam Owens/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP/KRQE) – A proposal to raise New Mexico’s statewide minimum wage has cleared the State Senate. Now the bill is headed to the State House of Representatives.

Legislators debated a bill Wednesday afternoon sponsored by Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, that would raise the pay floor from $7.50 an hour to $9. The bill includes an $8 hourly “trainee employee” wage for the first two months of employment.

It would also bump up the minimum wage for tip employees, like servers, by 50 cents to $2.63 an hour.

The first wage hike for the state’s lowest paid workers since 2009 would be felt acutely in rural, low-income areas. The state’s three largest urban areas — Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Albuquerque — already have local minimums. The highest is $11.09 in Santa Fe.

Sen. Sanchez’s bill had already cleared two committees before it got to the Senate floor Wednesday, where it easily passed. The six nays came from Republican senators. Of those six, only Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, stood up and spoke out against the bill while it was debated on the floor.

Sen. Woods voiced concerned over what it would cost the state to implement the changes for its employees paid under $9 an hour. He pointed to the $2.2 million increase it would take to pay just New Mexico school employees, according to a Legislative Education Study Committee report.

With the federal minimum wage frozen at $7.25 since 2009, many states are taking action. Nineteen states began the year with higher minimum wages through automated adjustments, new laws or ballot initiatives.

Right now, 29 states have higher minimum wages than New Mexico, including Colorado and Arizona. If Sen. Sanchez’s bill were to become law, New Mexico would bump up to number 15 on that list with Colorado and Arizona still ahead.

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