Lawmakers, Gov. clash on state pay raises

Posted at: 01/10/2013 6:01 PM
Updated at: 01/10/2013 6:18 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Gov. Susana Martinez could be on a collision course with state lawmakers over the issue of state employee pay raises - their first in four years.

Lawmakers will convene for a sixty-day session Jan. 15.

And with a Republican governor and a Democrat-controlled legislature, friction is guaranteed. But does that mean there will be a train wreck? It’s too early to tell, but it could happen over a one percent pay raise.

The pay raise - approved by the powerful legislative Finance Committee - would cost taxpayers $32 million. And the governor says no way.

"So at a time when New Mexico families are still struggling across the board pay increases for government employees is not something I can include in my budget," Martinez said.

But state workers point out that in those years of no raises they've also had to pay bigger contributions into their retirement benefit plan.

"When you cut somebody's salary and it goes back into the general fund that is a pay cut no matter what other name you put on it - we think that with two straight years of surpluses including a sizeable one this year that state employees should get at least a small raise,” Carter Bundy with AFSCME said.

The governor's proposed budget would reduce the employee contribution to where it used to be – so, even without an actual raise state employees’ paychecks would be a slightly bigger.

Expect at least a scuffle over the issue during the upcoming legislative session.