ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — It took more than 12,000 signatures and a legal battle that reached the state Supreme Court to get a minimum-wage hike for Albuquerque on the November ballot.
The vote on Tuesday itself was a lot easier with 66 percent of Albuquerque residents who went to the polls saying yes, nearly 140,000 in all.
That means that a pay raise from $7.50 to $8.50 an hour will be due to every minimum-wage worker in the city starting in 2013 with scheduled cost of living increases coming every year after that.
Tipped workers will also see a major spike in their hourly pay rate.
But there's at least one clear obstacle that could halt all of that.
According to city legal staff, repealing or amending the new minimum wage hike could be done with a simple majority of city councilors and the mayor's approval. Effectively, six people could undo the pay raise.
Council President Trudy Jones, Councilor Dan Lewis and Mayor Richard J. Berry were all on the record before Tuesday's vote as being opposed to a minimum-wage hike. With five city councilors considered friendly to the mayor and a sixth likely to be appointed once current councilor Debbie O'Malley moves over to her newly elected post on the Bernalillo County Commission, the votes may be there for a repeal.
In phone interviews with KRQE News 13, Jones and Lewis said they are looking at the option of repealing the new wage hike through council action but did not commit to moving ahead with that idea.
City Councilor Brad Winter had a similar response telling News 13 over the phone that he does not like the idea of a minimum-wage hike as passed by voters but isn't sure how he would vote on a repeal if it came before council.
Councilors Ken Sanchez, Rey Gardu o and O'Malley all said they would outright oppose any attempt to repeal the pay raise.
Breanna Anderson, the mayor's spokesperson, could not answer whether or not Berry would sign a repeal if it came across his desk. She did release a statement that said, "The mayor has not received any information or had any conversations with city council regarding this matter."
A possible repeal would be the exact opposite of the situation surrounding another minimum-wage hike proposed in 2005.
In October of that year, city voters narrowly rejected raising the minimum wage from the federal minimum $5.15 an hour to $7.50 an hour.
Six months later, then-Council President Martin Heinrich spearheaded an effort approved by council to hike minimum wage to $7.50 over the course of three years despite the opinion city voters had expressed.
UPDATE: City councilor Dan Lewis released the following statement on his Facebook page Monday evening -
I have no intention or plans to overturn what the voters overwhelmingly approved regarding the increase of Albuquerque's minimum wage. Before the Nov 6 election I voiced my concern and opposition of the increase and the effect it would have on the city budget and local small businesses. The facts show that increases like this result in a negative effect on young workers and the very people the minimum wage was designed to help. But I respect the will of the voters, and we will continue to work hard to make Albuquerque an even greater city."
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