Raising the State Minimum Wage

Raising the minimum wage is an effective strategy for reducing poverty in New Mexico, particularly given the erosion of its purchasing power since it was last raised in 2009. In the legislative session that begins in January 2017, New Mexico lawmakers should enact legislation to raise the minimum wage to $12.50 per hour by 2021, if not sooner. This would establish a minimum wage that is roughly 60 percent of the state’s median wage. While this level for the minimum wage could not be considered a living wage, thousands of families would benefit—as would the state’s economy as that money was spent at local businesses.

In recent years the cities of Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces have acted to raise the minimum wage in their communities above that of the state. If the state raised the state’s minimum wage to $12.50 an hour by 2021 in the upcoming state legislative session, it would be the first minimum wage increase for the whole state since the present minimum wage of $7.50 took effect in January of 2009. This report assumes an increase in five $1.00 increments, from $7.50 to $8.50 an hour in 2017 and to $9.50 an hour in 2018 and so forth, up to $12.50 an hour by 2021. In 2017, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), there will be about 795,000 workers statewide making an hourly wage in New Mexico, rising to 825,000 in 2021. The EPI estimates that in 2021, 225,500 (or 27 percent) of those 825,000 workers would be directly helped by raising the minimum to $12.50 an hour. An additional 22,900 workers would be indirectly affected—their wages would rise due to ‘spillover effects’ from raising the wage to $12.50. The total number of workers affected would be 248,400 or about 30 percent of the 825,000 hourly workers. This report describes the characteristics of these low-wage workers and looks at the EPI’s estimates of the wage impacts of raising the state’s minimum wage.