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New Mexico lawmakers introduce bills proposing increases in state's minimum wage

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SANTA FE, New Mexico — Democratic legislators are again proposing increases in New Mexico's minimum wage.

Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, has introduced a bill to raise the current hourly minimum wage of $7.50 to $8.30, while Rep. Luciano "Lucky" Varela, D-Santa Fe, is lead sponsor of a bill to raise the minimum to $10.10.

Varela told the Albuquerque Journal (http://goo.gl/f5uf71) that the current minimum wage isn't a livable wage.

"It's time for us to revisit the issue," he said.

Democratic legislators have made raising the minimum wage a top priority in recent years but have failed to get an increase enacted.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed an increase to $8.50 in 2013 but has said she could support a smaller one.

Republicans have won control of the state House, and Majority Leader Nate Gentry said he's open to an increase that keeps New Mexico competitive with neighboring states.

New Mexico's minimum wage is lower than those of Colorado and Arizona and higher than those of Texas and Oklahoma.

Gentry, R-Albuquerque, said the smaller proposed increase could be reasonable. "It's something we'll take a look at," he said.

Sanchez said his proposal does not include an inflation-driven trigger for future years. Also, it would allow a "training" rate of $7.50 for employees during their first six months on the job.

Sanchez said he's trying to strike a balance.

"There are two sides on this issue, and I'm trying to meet in the middle on a bill that wouldn't affect small businesses so much," Sanchez told the Journal. "I'm trying to do something to help the working class while being reasonable."

Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell said Thursday that the Republican governor still supports such an approach.

"The fact remains that Democrat leaders rejected bipartisan compromises in the last couple years that would have raised the minimum wage, and we would have a higher minimum wage today if they hadn't played politics with the issue," Knell said.

Some New Mexico cities have minimum wages that are higher than the state's minimum.

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