State senate passes minimum wage bill - with a catch

Posted at: 03/04/2013 6:42 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The state Senate has passed a minimum wage law with a wrinkle in it.

It would raise pay for many workers - but would actually result in smaller paychecks for thousands of other workers.

The bill would raise the state minimum wage a dollar an hour - up to $8.50 - but it doesn't cover businesses with ten or fewer employees. They would be left at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. That's 25 cents less than the state minimum wage is right now.

The minimum wage has been a contentious issue from the get-go in the 60 day legislative session. Lawmakers on a House committee have already killed one bill, leaving two other alternatives in the works.

Polls show most New Mexico voters think the state's lowest wage-earners need a raise. Economist Gerry Bradley of New Mexico Voices for Children says the economy needs those workers to get a raise, too.

"They're not able to travel a lot, so they're not going to the rest of the United States or foreign countries to consume," Bradley said. "They're going to spend the increase right here in New Mexico."

But business groups say it will force some employers to lay off some workers, and cut back the hours for others.

"The problem that we keep talking about is starting to materialize," said Terri Cole of the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. "The people that this kind of initiative is trying to help, it only hurts the same people they're trying to help."

Economists say about 70,000 New Mexico workers earn the minimum wage.

The bill passed in the Senate on a 25 to 17 vote. It now goes to the House of Representatives.