More than 100,000 New Mexicans will see their pay increase starting in January now that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed legislation to raise the state minimum wage. “This is going to give hope and improve the quality of life” for New Mexicans at the bottom of the pay scale, the governor said Monday during a news conference at the Capitol.
"This is really a game changer for our state, being a state that's very large, with a big rural population, tribal population,” Vigil stresses. “This is a really innovative and critical step that our state is taking to address those access needs."
Hosts Chris Ramirez and Nathan O'Neal discussed what's in store for New Mexico's children. From the 2020 census to the bills working through the Roundhouse right now, there are many impacts on the future generations. Featured on the show are James Jimenez and Amber Wallin with New Mexico Voices for Children.
“People are working – they’re just not making enough to get by,” said Bill Jordan of New Mexico Voices for Children. “It’s time to raise the wage.”
“When you’re living in deep poverty, $300 is a lot of food on the table, and it helps pay one more electricity bill,” said Casau. “Even though it’s not a lot for the poorest of the poor, the fact that we are having copays for families that are in deep poverty is something that is unconscionable.”
For Estela Guzman, a researcher at New Mexico Voices for Children, a statewide advocacy organization, a top priority is to increase the state’s minimum wage. “These people have to work three to four jobs just to make ends meet,” she said, adding that increasing wages is a long-term solution for many. “If the community can’t thrive, we are all missing out.”
New Mexico has some 245,000 people, or 31 percent of its workforce, earning low wages at or near a proposed minimum wage of $12 per hour. About 159,000 or nearly 20 percent of workers are paid less than $12, said Sharon Kayne, a spokeswoman at the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children, which issued a report in August on the minimum wage based on data from the Economic Policy Institute.
"And we know that children in New Mexico suffer from a high degree of food insecurity, which means that they don't always know where the next meal is coming from,” he said. “And making food more expensive for children and families just does not make sense to us." Nearly all U.S. states have eliminated, reduced or offset taxes as applied to food for home consumption.
However, the Albuquerque-based child advocacy organization New Mexico Voices for Children does not believe low incomes and poverty are the reason for New Mexico’s low broadband subscription rate. “That’s an excuse, not a reason,” said James Jimenez, the group’s executive director. “One thing we have seen around the state, even in low-income communities, a lot of people still have a phone (despite the cost). Companies find a way of providing service people can afford.”
And the advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children is distributing poll results that show overwhelming public opposition to reinstating a tax on groceries. “New Mexicans believe their leaders should be fighting hunger, not making it worse,” said James Jimenez, executive director of the agency.