County OKs minimum wage increase to $10.66 per hour

The crowd shows support for a wage hike during the Santa Fe County Commission meeting Tuesday. Commissioners approved the increase. Jane Phillips/The New Mexican

Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 11:10 pm | Updated: 1:20 pm, Wed Feb 26, 2014.
By Phaedra Haywood
The New Mexican

The Santa Fe County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to increase the minimum wage in Santa Fe County from $7.50 per hour to $10.66 per hour.

The ordinance passed by the commission also calls for employees who normally receive more than $30 per month in tips or commissions to be paid a base wage equal to 60 percent of the new so-called “living wage."

The lowest allowable hourly rate for those employees will increase from $2.13 per hour to $6.40 per hour. Both new wage standards are set to take effect in 60 days.

The new minimum wage will be increased annually by the percentage of increase — if any — that occurs in the Consumer Price Index, and the base wage for tipped employees will increase in relationship to the new minimum wage.

Commissioner Liz Stefanics, cqwho co-sponsored the legislation with Commissioner Miguel Chavez, cqsaid the measure brings the income of the county’s lowest paid employee to about $420 per week, which is still much less than the $650 or so an economist told her would be needed to get by in Santa Fe.

Commissioner Kathy Holian cqsaid her research indicated that a "living wage" for the state of New Mexico should be about $14.42 per hour, and in Santa Fe, where the cost of living is higher than in other parts of the state, it should be about $19 per hour.

“It should be much higher,” Stefanics said. “But at least it will help individuals eat and pay for health care and buy books and shoes for their children.”

“I agree with Commissioner Stefanics,” Chavez said. “It really is a non-living wage, but it puts money in the pockets of people who need it most.”

The 5-0 vote was met with cheers from the audience — including people from the immigrant rights advocacy group Somos Un Pueblo Unido’s cqUnited Worker Center. Many people flooded out into the hallway to hug, shake hands and take pictures with the commissioners after the vote.

The city of Santa Fe’s minimum wage is $10.51 but is set to increase to $10.66 on March 1.

Original versions of the county’s proposed wage ordinance had suggested starting with a lower minimum wage and linking the first increase of the county’s wage to the city’s increase, but that idea was scrapped after Commissioner Robert Anaya opposed handing over the commission’s decision-making authority to another entity.

Anaya also proposed amending the wage ordinance to allow for two different minimums in two different parts of the county — he proposed $11 per hour in the central and northern parts of the county and $9 per hour in the southern part — reasoning that residents closer to the Bernalillo County line have a lower cost of living. But that idea was rejected by a vote of 4-1.

Contact Phaedra Haywood at 986-3068 or