Businesses deride minimum wage

Mickey Simms, owner of Wash O Mat Coin Operated Laundry in Clovis, joined other local business owners Friday for a press conference regarding the recently proposed minimum wage increase. (CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer

Taco Box owner Tom Martin said the price of a taco will increase by 50 percent in 2008 if a minimum wage bill passes.

Martin is one of several owners united against a bill to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.50 an hour. Raising the state’s minimum wage would result in layoffs and loss in revenue, Clovis business owners said during a press conference Friday at the Clovis-Carver Public Library.

However, Gov. Bill Richardson thinks a “high wage economy” will come out of the minimum wage increase.

With the wage increase, Cyber City owner, Howard Blake said he’ll have to lay off 50 percent of his work force.
Chris Bryant owns Foxy Drive-in and said the wage increase coupled with high utility and insurance costs will mean lay-offs.

Different versions of the wage bill are pending in the House and Senate.

The business owners, who have formed a group called the Concerned Businesses of Eastern New Mexico, said they want to pay employees more when they deem appropriate, not when the government tells them to.

Increasing the minimum wage means workers will get a raise without doing extra work, said Gene Porter, who owns Glass Doctor.

Martin agrees.

“I feel the marketplace should determine wages. Each market is different. It should be able to set its own rate. Wages should be earned and not legislated,” he said.
Rep. Brian K. Moore, R-Clayton, a business owner, agrees.

Moore has owned a grocery store for 19 years and employs 38 to 40 people, some of which make just above the current minimum wage, he said.

“I’m a Republican, and I believe in a free market economy. Competition is good,” Moore said.

Training, education and time on the job lead to increased wages and the debate should be a federal one, Moore said.
Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, who said she’s cautious about voting in favor of the bill, also believes the debate should be federal.

Losing a competitive edge to nearby Texas businesses was another concern.

“We want to compete with other states and this increase (in minimum wage) puts us at a disadvantage,” said Greg Southard who owns Leslie Candy Co.

“We’re not Albuquerque, we’re not Santa Fe. We’re more a suburb of west Texas than we are of Albuquerque,” Martin said.

Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, who opposes the bill, says the cost of living in Santa Fe is different than in Clovis. “One size does not fit all. I think it hurts the economy.”

Richardson disagrees with the local businessmen and appreciates their concern.

“Put simply it makes good economic sense,” Richardson said in his State of the State address. “I am sensitive to the business community. But if we are to continue building a high wage economy which I am intent on doing we need a meaningful wage for an honest day’s work,” he said.

Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales voted in favor of the bill, which was amended in his public affairs committee. The top of the phased-in minimum wage would be a dollar less than what Richardson proposes, he said.

“The thing about raising the minimum wage is that once you raise the bottom, everything else must raise accordingly,” Ingle said.