City bumps pay floor to national high.
Santa Fe's minimum wage will be the highest in the nation as of March 1. The city announced Thursday that the wage floor will increase to $10.29 an hour — up from the $9.85 imposed on employers for the last two years and a nickel higher than San Francisco's.
The 2002 "living wage" ordinance calls for the city to recalculate the pay requirement annually based on the Western regional Consumer Price Index.
City officials, however, failed to adjust the minimum last March 1 because they assumed that poor economic conditions would mean the index would decline as it had the previous year. In fact, the CPI did increase slightly, so the Santa Fe minimum wage should have been $9.99 for the past year.
"What you're looking at is an increase for both 2010 and 2011 being put into effect," said Kate Noble of the city Economic Development Division. "So we're getting the wage up to where it should be, but there has been a year when it was missed."
For the last decade, Santa Fe and San Francisco have been neck-and-neck for requiring the highest minimum wage in the United States. Because Santa Fe hasn't adjusted its minimum wage for two years, San Francisco was higher for all of 2011 with $9.92 an hour.
As of Jan. 1, San Francisco's hourly minimum wage rose to $10.24 — 5 cents less than what Santa Fe's new minimum will be as of March 1.
The statewide minimum wage is $7.50 an hour, while the federal minimum has been $7.25 since 2009.
The Santa Fe "living wage" ordinance has proved politically popular with those running for elected municipal office. None of the 10 candidates in the March 6 election for four of the eight City Council positions has expressed any opposition to the minimum wage ordinance.
At Wednesday's forum for the north-side District 1 seat, incumbent Patti Bushee and challenger Houston Johansen tried to outdo each other in their support of the minimum wage.