The House Regulatory and Public Affairs committee tabled a couple of proposed increases in the state minimum wage this afternoon. The current state minimum wage is $7.50 per hour. In HB 20, Rep. Lucky Varela (D-Santa Fe) proposed raising that to $10.10 per hour, paralleling what is being discussed nationally.

Varela said the increase is needed to break New Mexico out of the poverty cycle. Rep. Miguel Garcia (D-Albuquerque) carried a bill that gets to that same increase, but with increments over three years.

UNM’s minimum wage for staff is $9 per hour, with lower levels for student employees, so both proposals would have an impact on the university budget.

Public comment was greatly supportive of the $10.10 level, defining it as barely a “living wage for working families.” Opponents, largely from the business community, spoke of the hardship that such an increase would have on small businesses and farms.

There were few questions from committee members as the issue and arguments are not new. Both bills were tabled by the Republican majority on a 4-3 vote. There are minimum wage bills to be considered in the Senate and many days left to introduce new legislation.