House speaker pushes minimum wage ahead

The Associated Press

SANTA FE — House Speaker Ben Lujan pledged Thursday to push ahead with a proposal to boost the state’s minimum wage to $7.50 an hour starting next year rather than phasing in the increase over three years as recommended by Gov. Bill Richardson.

Lujan, D-Santa Fe, was joined by chairmen of key House committees at a news conference in a show of unified Democratic leadership support for the minimum wage measure. Lujan is sponsoring the legislation.

“We feel it’s important to do it now,” Lujan said of a one-step increase to $7.50 an hour from the current $5.15 an hour, which also is the federal wage floor.

Lujan’s proposal would annually adjust the wage rate for inflation, providing for automatic increases. Oregon and Washington currently have state minimum wages that are indexed for inflation.

Richardson has proposed a phased-in increase to $6.50 an hour as of Jan. 1, 2007, $7 in 2008, and $7.50 in 2009. There’s no inflation indexing in the governor’s proposal.

Lujan didn’t rule out a possible compromise with the governor later in the session, but emphasized that he’ll initially push for a House vote on his measure.

Richardson stood by his three-year phase-in.

“I think eventually the Legislature will come around to my proposal,” said Richardson.