Copyright © 2023 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – New Mexico’s minimum wage just increased to $12 an hour at the start of this year, but two state lawmakers have already proposed legislation calling for future increases.
One of the bills filed this week would boost the minimum wage to $16 per hour starting in 2024, while also establishing an indexing system that would mean yearly minimum wage increases tied to inflation every year starting in 2025.
That proposal, House Bill 25, is sponsored by Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, who said Wednesday it’s based on New Mexico cost-of-living data and aimed at updating the minimum wage amid a labor market that’s changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Workers really feel, rightfully so in my opinion, that they need to be paid at a level where they can meet their minimum necessities,” Chandler told the Journal.
The other bill, House Bill 28, sponsored by Rep. Miguel P. Garcia, D-Albuquerque, would simply require annual increases tied to inflation. Those increases would then take effect in July every year.
“Indexing our state minimum wage law is a win-win situation for both our workers and our businesses,” Garcia said in a statement. “Annual increases enhance worker morale and increase a worker’s buying power.”
“As for businesses, it is a timely barometer of acknowledging the annual productivity value of workers and eliminates the sometimes unmanageable wage spikes that come around every 10 years,” he added.
New Mexico’s minimum wage increased to $12 an hour – from $11.50 per hour – on Jan. 1 under the final step-up mandated by a 2019 bill. The state’s minimum wage had been set at $7.50 per hour for roughly a decade before that law took effect.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who signed the 2019 bill, has not said specifically whether she would support additional minimum wage hikes, as a spokeswoman said last week her agenda for the upcoming 60-day legislative session would balance supporting New Mexico workers with fostering a “business-friendly climate.”
Rob Black, the president and CEO of the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday many businesses around the state are already paying employees above minimum wage levels due to a worker shortage.
He said increasing the minimum wage to $16 an hour would make New Mexico’s minimum wage one of the nation’s highest – the minimum wage in Washington, D.C., is currently $16.50 per hour – and would place a strain on businesses.
“Our preference would be that it’s the market that drives those decisions, and not government mandates,” Black said.
As for annual minimum wage increases tied to inflation, he said the business group had not yet taken a formal position on the idea, but said the approach would at least provide more predictability for businesses.
New Mexico’s minimum wage law previously allowed for a lower training wage – of $8.50 an hour – for high school-age workers, but that was eliminated under 2021 legislation.
The 60-day session begins Jan. 17, and additional bills dealing with the minimum wage could be filed in the coming days and weeks.