New Mexico legislators consider raising minimum wage

POSTED: 08:58 PM MST Feb 13, 2013 
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

New Mexico legislators are considering a bill that would raise the state minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, one of the highest in the country.

Currently $7.50 an hour, New Mexico's minimum wage is already higher than the federal rate.

Supporters argue the raise is necessary for some people to afford basic needs, but some local business owners in Las Cruces said a higher minimum wage means higher prices for everyone.

"Any employer doesn't want to stop people from making money. If they're making more money, that means the employer's making more money," said Vince Vacarro, the owner of Lorenzo's Italian restaurant.

He said he's dreading a rise in the state's minimum wage.

"When minimum wage goes up, three things are going to happen. People are going to get laid off work, services are going to get cut and prices are going to go up to cover additional costs. One or all three is going to happen to every business," he told ABC-7.

Legislators are talking about raising the minimum wage by just a dollar, but that dollar could affect everything from how much employees make to how much a plate of food costs.

"My payroll would be roughly an additional $50,000 a year. I will have to raise prices, which then you have to get a fine line. If you raise your prices too much, you lose customers," Vacarro said.

The Las Cruces City Council discussed whether to pass a resolution in support of the bill earlier this week.

Some city councilors think raising the minimum wage could help people currently living in poverty.

"A person making the national minimum wage right now only makes $14,500. That's really poverty nowadays, so we need to raise that up," said city councilor Gill Sorg. "The main thing is that we have a lot of poor in our city, our county. I think this is something that could be good for the city and the county's poor people. it will help them get out of poverty."

If the bill is approved and signed by the governor, the minimum wage would increase on Jan. 1, 2014.

The last time the wage went up in the state was in 2009, going from $6.50 to the current rate of $7.50.