Stumbling block likely in Senate for $7.50 minimum wage

By Deborah Baker

SANTA FE — Majority Leader Michael Sanchez predicts that the Senate will be the stumbling block for a $7.50 minimum wage.

The Belen Democrat says he “is still a true believer that it should be $7.50 right off the bat,” although that proposal has been tripped up in both houses.

Raising the hourly minimum wage from $5.15 — the current state and federal rate — is among the major issues facing lawmakers in the legislative session that ends Feb. 16.

In the House, a bill sponsored by Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, would have raised the wage floor to $7.50 an hour next year. It has been changed by a committee to $7.50 phased in over two years, with exemptions for some businesses.

That measure is headed to the House floor for a vote.
In the Senate, a committee gutted a bill backed by Gov. Bill Richardson for a three-year phase-in of an increase to $7.50 an hour. The legislation now provides for a phase-in over two years to $6.15, and allows employers to pay a year-long “training wage” of $5.15.

It would have to clear two more committees before it reached the full Senate for a vote.

Sanchez said he may try to get the Senate bill amended to reinstate the $7.50 floor, but he didn’t hold out much hope for success.

“I suspect that the votes aren’t there for $7.50 right now,” the Senate leader said.

Sanchez also said he was disappointed that the Senate Public Affairs Committee rejected a bill he introduced, which would have raised the minimum to $7.50 next year but allowed small businesses to take tax credits for three years to help defray the cost.