Democratic leaders of the state House of Representatives and Senate announced Monday a proposal that would increase minimum wage statewide, from $7.50 to $8.50.
Speaking at a press conference, Sens. William Soules, of Las Cruces, and Richard Martinez, of Espanola, said the legislation would benefit families.
“We know that the majority of people who are on minimum wage are adults and the majority of them have children and they are trying to support their families,” Soules said. “This is a bill that supports families; it helps raise people up out of poverty.”
Soules said the dollar increase would bring minimum wage families an annual income of at least $17,000, with up to an additional $40 a week.
“We just want people to be able to buy the basic needs and to be able to survive at a decent salary,” Martinez said.
While he said he would like to see a wage increase higher than a dollar, “I think this is a start and I think that we’re going to go ahead and pass the bill and I challenge Gov. Martinez to sign it.”
Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, also has proposed House Joint Resolution 6, a state constitutional amendment that would raise minimum wage annually, based on the rate of inflation. The House Labor and Human Resources committee is scheduled to hear the resolution today.
Republican legislators have expressed opposition to statewide increases of minimum wage.
Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, said on the surface, the increase appears to be a “job reducer,” because it would prevent employers looking to expand their businesses from being able to hire. “I don’t think that’s the right direction,” she said.
She does not support a statewide increase, but feels “every region [of the state] should have that option, if they so choose.”
Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said a minimum wage increase is not an issue “we need to be talking about with the other issues in the legislature at the moment.”
One such issue is resolving the matter of state driver’s licenses. He and Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, plan to meet this week to work on a compromise bill, he said, that he hopes will allow residents’ licenses to be accepted by the federal government when traveling, instead of passports.
“It’s not going to be perfect,” he said. “But we need to get this issue out.”