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New Mexico legislative proposal would hike governor’s pay

January 18, 2018

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez reacts to banners from protesters while delivering her State of the State address on the first day of the New Mexico Legislature in the House chambers at the Capitol in Santa Fe, N.M., Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Juan Labreche)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A post-election salary hike of 10 percent is being contemplated for New Mexico’s governor, attorney general, secretary of state and several other statewide elected officials, as the Legislature weighs more modest pay raises for rank-and-file state workers and teachers.

Outgoing Republican Gov. Susana Martinez vowed Wednesday to veto any bill that only focuses on raises for politicians — leaving the door open to the inclusion of top-tier elected officials in a broader package of pay increases for public employees.

Members of the Legislature’s lead budget-writing committee this week endorsed the proposal to increase annual pay for seven statewide elected officials and members of the Public Regulation Commission come Jan. 1, 2019.

The last time those salaries were increased was in 2002, while state workers and teachers have received sporadic pay increases.

New Mexico government income for the coming fiscal year is expected to surpass annual spending by at least $200 million as the state climbs out of a budget crisis.

The governor’s current salary is $110,000. Martinez cannot run for re-election in November.

Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas earns $95,000. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver receives $85,000.

Proponents of the changes say compensation for jobs such as state auditor, treasurer and land commissioner have not kept pace with responsibilities over multibillion dollar financial portfolios and the state’s vast public oil and natural gas reserves.

“The demands of the office have increased,” said Rep. Patty Lundstrom, chairwoman of the Legislative Finance Committee, referring to the state treasurer job, which pays $85,000 a year. “You have to have some salary that’s commensurate with responsibility.”

Martinez spokeswoman Emilee Cantrell said Wednesday in an email that the governor wants to focus state spending on public school classrooms, employment programs and a crackdown on crime.

Martinez and the Democrat-led Legislature have proposed more modest pay increases for rank-and-file state workers and public school teachers and staff.

The Legislature is calling for a 1.5 percent average increase for state workers, a $2,000 base pay raise for teachers and additional targeted increases.

The governor would increase pay by 1 percent for state workers, 2 percent for teachers, with more substantial increases for the judiciary, state police and corrections workers in response to concerns about rising crime rates in cities including Albuquerque and low staffing levels at public and private prisons.

The governor has proposed performance-based bonuses of as much as $10,000 a year for teachers who rapidly boost student academic proficiency, and for placing limits on school administration spending as a percentage of spending. It was unclear how many teachers would qualify for bonuses.

Democratic Sen. John Arthur Smith of Deming said he plans to introduce bill to boost pay for statewide officeholders, and that salary increases also are overdue for Cabinet-level posts in order to compete with private sector jobs for highly qualified candidates.

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