On Saturday, all but one New Mexico House Democrat voted to give themselves salaries on the backs of the state’s taxpayers. The proposal, H.J.R. 8 by Rep. Angelica Rubio (D-Doña Ana), passed the House chamber on a 40-24 vote, with Rep. Ambrose Castellano (D-Ribera) joining all Republicans in rejecting the measure.
The chamber debated the resolution for three hours, with Republicans offering an amendment to cap the salary at the median household income of an average New Mexican, which is approximately $54,000 annually.
The amendment, sponsored by Rep. John Block (R-Alamogordo), was rejected on a party-line vote after a lengthy debate. Democrats advocated for a commission to set the salary without any parameters by the Legislature on how the amount should be set.
Currently, legislators in New Mexico do get paid a per diem, which is $176 a day for a House member and $181 a day for senators. For House members during the 60-day session, they receive $10,560, and senators receive $10,860. They also receive per diem for interim committees that meet throughout the year and, after ten years of service, receive a generous pension.
Despite the compensation legislators receive, Democrats erroneously claimed New Mexico is the only state in the country that doesn’t pay its lawmakers. However, New Mexico’s system is quite generous versus states like New Hampshire, which pay their legislators only $100 without per diem, or Utah, which pays $285 per legislative day. Currently, New Mexico lawmakers make around $22 per hour based on eight hours of work for the per diem rate.
During the debate, Rep. Alan Martinez (R-Bernalillo) said he is “uncomfortable” voting for legislator pay, saying it incentivizes politicians “to stay here and become entrenched in the system.”
The resolution now heads over to the state Senate for consideration. However, it is unclear if it will pass the chamber with only around 13 days left in the legislative session. If it does pass the Senate, it will go on the 2024 general election ballot for voters to approve or reject the measure.