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Living Wage Makes National Spotlight

Washington Post finds benefits and consequences are murky

August 5, 2014, 2:15 pm

One of Santa Fe's signature progressive initiatives made headlines in the Washington Post in the tenth year of its existence, and the newspaper's analysis is ambiguous.

The story, written by former Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post reporter Tina Griego, looks at Santa Fe as an early experiment for a policy that President Barack Obama now advocates across the country: raising the national minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. 

Tied to a cost-of-living index, Santa Fe's minimum wage currently sits at $10.66 an hour, which is still enough to make it the second-highest minimum wage in the nation below San Francisco, though Seattle will soon surpass both. Griego sums up the effectiveness of Santa Fe's living wage with this passage: 

"Has the city's living wage—now at $10.66 an hour—been an overall benefit? Absolutely. Not at all. Sometimes. Maybe. It depends. It's complicated."

She writes that Santa Fe's unemployment rate stays below the rest of the state, that revenue from gross receipt taxes has recovered from the recession, and that employment in the service industry is staying flat. But the data is too broad to be directly applied to the minimum wage. 

Griego finds a similar lack of evidence for some of the arguments against the living wage, such as the doom scenario that the wage would cause students to drop out of high school and work "because $10.66 with a guaranteed cost-of-living raise seems like a pretty good deal."

One resident profiled in the story, Betty Quintero, recalls being excited when the city's living wage came into effect. But Quintero, who works as a hotel housekeeping supervisor, tells the Post that her hike in pay came only alongside hikes in her food and rent payments. The story contrasts Quintero with Jessica Garcia, who came to Santa Fe from North Carolina. Garcia's job with McDonald's increased from $7 an hour to $10.66 an hour here, according to the story. She shares a three-bedroom mobile home with her family and her sister's family. 

Read the full Washington Post story here


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