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Proposal Lets NM Voters Decide Minimum Wage Boost

New Mexico's current hourly minimum wage rate would need to be $8.03 if it was adjusted for inflation since 2009, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.

The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce opposes the wage proposals.

"We believe that increasing the minimum wage only hurts the people that the legislators are trying to help," said Terri Cole, the business group's president and CEO.

She contends that a higher pay requirement by the state will cause businesses to eliminate jobs or benefits and potentially increase the costs of their products.

But John Chavez, a Santa Fe restaurant owner, said businesses can thrive with a higher minimum wage. He pays his five employees an average of $11.25 an hour. Santa Fe has a "living wage" requirement of $10.29 an hour, but it doesn't apply to his small business.

"Employees are more productive when they are getting paid more," Chavez said.

Albuquerque voters in November approved raising the city's minimum wage to $8.50 an hour â¿¿ a $1 increase â¿¿ and requiring cost-of-living adjustments.

Garcia's proposal is a constitutional amendment that would be placed on the 2014 general election ballot if it's approved by the Legislature. Lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled Legislature can bypass Republican Gov. Susana Martinez because a proposed constitutional amendment doesn't require the signature of the governor.

Democrats said a higher minimum wage would boost the state's economy by giving workers more money to buy goods and services.

"When New Mexico workers are paid a fair wage that money is invested right back into our local economy," Garcia said.

___

Follow Barry Massey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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