State employees get a 3% salary increase

The Rotunda in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE — More than 17,000 state employees received a pay raise on Friday, as a 3% wage increase approved by lawmakers during this year’s 30-day session went into effect .

The increases, which also apply to public school and higher education employees, judiciary employees and legislative staff, mark the first of two phases of an overall 7% increase in salaries for most state employees – the largest approved in more than a decade.

The additional 4% will come into effect from July, although some non-government employers have accelerated the increases to give their workers the full pay increase in one go.

However, the salary increases come as New Mexico still grapples with a 23% vacancy rate in state government agencies, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who signed the salary increases as part of an $8.5 billion budget bill, said the salary increases could help lower the vacancy rate .

“In addition to increasing compensation for the thousands of hard-working New Mexico State employees across the state, supporting New Mexico families, and putting more dollars back into local communities, everything by increasing employee retention, we also expect an increase in state salaries to improve the state’s ability to recruit talent and fill vacancies in order to continue serving New Mexicans,” the state said. spokesperson for Lujan Grisham, Nora Meyers Sackett.

But a labor leader said several state agencies were struggling to hire new workers in a timely manner, in part due to human resource vacancies.

Additionally, Dan Secrist, president of the local Communications Workers of America union, pointed out that workers in the state — like other New Mexicans — are facing rising gas and grocery costs.

He also said most of the state’s base employees have received relatively small or no annual salary increases since at least 2007.

“It will help some, but there is still a lot to do,” Secrist said in an interview on Friday.

This year’s wage increases were included by lawmakers in a budget bill that will propel state spending to record highs. The increase in spending was possible due to an increase in oil production in southeastern New Mexico and increased consumer activity that resulted in a revenue windfall for the state. .

Meanwhile, the total 7% wage increase will mean an annual wage increase of about $3,700 — or about $142 more per paycheck every two weeks — for a state worker whose average salary for classified workers is $52,832 per year.

Nearly a third of classified state workers have been earning between $20,000 and $40,000 a year since last year, according to data from the State Personnel Office, meaning they will be in line for lower salary increases.

But some of those employees could benefit from a separate provision in the budget bill that, starting in July, will establish a minimum wage of $15 an hour for state employees.

Additionally, the budget bill contains funds for even bigger 17% salary increases for New Mexico judges, who are paid less than their counterparts in many other states.

In total, the wage increases will cost the state $171.6 million in recurring funding.

That prompted some lawmakers to express concern about maintaining the increases if state revenue levels were to fall, although others vowed that the wage increases would not be reversed.

William M. Mayer