A Senate bill introduced Tuesday would incrementally increase the statewide minimum wage per hour starting in 2016, and it calls for an increase in pay of $2.60 over the current rate of $7.50 as required by state law.
Senate Bill 432 (SB432), introduced by Senator William P. Soules (D-37-Dona Ana), would require employers to pay a minimum of $8.80 an hour starting on January 1, 2016, then increase the wage to $10.10 starting on January 1, 2017. A provision for a lower minimum wage would pertain to employees who receive tips, and to agricultural workers who are provided food, utilities, supplies and housing by their employers.
“We, as lawmakers, have a moral as well as fiduciary responsibility to the people of New Mexico who are struggling to make ends meet at $7.50 an hour,” Sen. Soules said. “Wages at all levels have remained stagnant for the past several years because of the slumping economy and the lowest paid workers, who typically work the hardest, have suffered the most because of this. People at this level of income would immediately spend this extra money to better their standard of living, thus improving the state’s economy.”
Sen. Soules also introduced Senate Joint Resolution 9 (SJR9), which would increase the minimum wage at levels equal to the annual rate of inflation not to exceed 4 percent per year. SJR 9 proposes to amend the state constitution and if passed would have to be voted upon at the next general election by the citizens of New Mexico. A cost of living increase is also tied to SB 432.
“We have heard the worn out argument that an increase in the minimum wage is a job killer and nothing could be further from the truth,” Sen. Soules said. “By now, we have empirical data from Santa Fe, where the minimum wage is well over $10 per hour, and soon we’ll have information from Albuquerque and Las Cruces, which both recently raised the rates.”
“I haven’t heard of any doomsday reports from any of these cities that the increase hurt business or the economy. I have heard from many business owners who say that paying their workers a decent wage leads to happier employees and less turnover, thus saving on a business’ expenses in the long run,” Sen. Soules added. “Once again, I will repeat, ‘It’s the right thing to do!’”
A similar House bill increasing the pay to $10.10 died in committee on Monday.