Vote 4 NM: The minimum wage debate | KOB 4
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Vote 4 NM: The minimum wage debate

Patrick Hayes
October 23, 2018 03:19 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The minimum wage around New Mexico continues to be a hot topic and both candidates for governor have completely different viewpoints.

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If elected, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham said she would immediately raise the state’s minimum wage to $10 an hour, then increase it to $12 over four years.  

Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce said he supports people making more money but doesn’t think an increase in the minimum wage would help the economy.

New Mexico’s minimum wage is currently set at $7.50 an hour but the state’s three largest cities – Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe – have all passed laws requiring employers to pay more than the state minimum.

In 2015, voters in Las Cruces passed a law to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2019.

In Albuquerque, the city has two minimum wages for hourly employees. Those who receive benefits earn $7.95 an hour. Those who don’t receive benefits get $8.95 an hour.

Santa Fe has the highest minimum wage in the state at $11.50 an hour, $4 higher than the state minimum.

The decision to increase the minimum wage is likely to land on the governor’s desk.

In 2017, lawmakers tried to increase the state minimum wage but were unsuccessful.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed House Bill 442, which would have increased the minimum wage from $7.50 to $9.25 an hour.

She also vetoed Senate Bill 386, which would have raised the state's minimum wage to $9.00 per hour.

As KOB previously reported, Martinez cited concerns for locally-owned businesses.

One group that’s been keeping a close eye on the issue is the New Mexico Restaurant Association. Its CEO, Carol Wight, told KOB that raising the minimum wage is hard on family-owned restaurants. According to Wight, every $1 per hour increase costs businesses an extra $2,000 per year.

Therefore, a business with 20 employees would have to spend an extra $40,000 a year, according to Wright.

“How many enchiladas is $40,000? That’s a lot and we don’t have that many more customers coming in so very difficult situation to put small businesses in," Wight asked rhetorically. “We are the industry that still greets you at the door, greets you at the table, cooks your food, cleans up after you.”

Current CNM student Traeshaun Buffin said he’s worked several minimum wage jobs and supports an increase.

The 32-year-old is working on getting his degree in construction engineering and said he struggles to find jobs that offer more than minimum wage, which he needs pay for college and his 7-year-old son.

Wight said if the state passed a higher minimum wage, restaurants would be forced to increase their prices.

“And we want to keep them from doing that. We’ve got to keep our prices down and we can’t do that if our costs keep increasing," she said.

But Buffin thinks enough minimum wage workers would use the extra money at restaurants.

“When people have more money to spend, they tend to spend it on things they want after their needs are taken care of. Nobody wants to just work all day and spend money on bills," he said.

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Patrick Hayes

Copyright 2019 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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