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New Mexico lawmaker seeks country's largest minimum wage – $16 an hour by 2024

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Glenn Minnis

(The Center Square) – New Mexico could soon be home to the highest statewide minimum wage in the country if a veteran Democratic lawmaker gets her way.

Rep. Christine Chandle, D- Los Alamos, who also serves as chair of the House Tax and Revenue Committee that is entrusted with crafting some of the most impactful economic policy in the state, is leading the charge in the push for a 33 percent minimum wage increase to $16 an hour by 2024. Going forward, the state would also see an annual increase tied to inflation.

Pre-filed in advance to the start of the 2023 session, House Bill 25 comes on the heels of the state’s minimum wage being raised to $12 an hour at the start of the year, an increase of some 60 percent since 2019.

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While the latest increase being proposed would put the state in a class all of its own as it relates to such wage levels, Paul Gessing, president of free-market think tank Rio Grande Foundation, said he can’t help but wonder if Chandler may have somehow confused the state with other “blue” state metropolises like California and New York.

“Crazy stuff gets introduced all the time in the legislature, but this individual is Chair of Tax and Revenue, someone with political sway,” he said. “For her to want to go to $16 an hour and index inflation is crazy when you consider we’re a state with one of the lowest costs of living in the country. I just think that’s bad policy that will have crippling effects on our small businesses.”

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As the debate rages on, Gessing said that he worries things may actually get worse before they get better.

With another minimum wage bill that seeks to enact cost of living increases now also being considered, Gessing concedes it’s probably just a matter of time before change comes in some form.

“I think you will probably see some kind of action on minimum wage given this is a pretty progressive body,” he added. “But I really think $16 an hour is too high, and for all our sakes I really hope lawmakers don’t go for that.”