SANTA FE — A legislative committee on Tuesday blocked a proposed constitutional amendment calling for voters to decide whether to increase the state minimum wage.
Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, D-Las Cruces, joined with five Republicans to table the measure. The other five Democrats on the House Voters and Elections Committee favored it.
Garcia said she did not believe a plan to raise the minimum wage belonged in the state Constitution. Minimum wage increases should be handled by legislation, she said.
Democratic Rep. Miguel Garcia of Albuquerque sponsored the proposed constitutional amendment. It would have increased the state's base minimum wage of $7.50 an hour based on inflation.
House Speaker Ken Martinez sponsored an amendment that would have capped any increases at 4 percent a year.
Businesspeople testified against the proposed amendment, both because it would be included forever in the Constitution and because they said it would hurt companies.
Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, voted against the proposal. She said the obvious reason Miguel Garcia proposed taking the issue to the voters was that he could avoid a veto by the governor using that tactic.
Miguel Garcia's proposed amendment would have gone to the voters in November 2014, sidestepping Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.
A separate bill by Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, would lift the state minimum wage from $7.50 to $8.50 an hour. Soules' bill would allow the wage to be decided by legislators and then be subject to the governor's veto if it clears the Legislature.
Milan Simonich, Santa Fe bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-820-6898. His blog is at nmcapitolreport.com