A $1.00 minimum wage increase, as proposed by Organizers in the Land of Enchantment New Mexico, would certainly help many New Mexicans, but it is just not enough for students or workers with dependents.
When the minimum wage for Albuquerque was raised to $7.50/hr in 2009, a one bedroom apartment cost $628/month, a loaf of bread cost $1.77, tuition at CNM was $492 for a full-time student, electricity ran $45/mo. and a gallon of gas was $2.66.
Today, a one bedroom apartment costs $672, a seven percent increase; bread is $2.25, a 27 percent increase; tuition is $579, a 23 percent increase; electricity runs $88/ month, a 95 percent increase; and gas is $3.63/gal, a 36 percent increase. A minimum wage increase of 13 percent will not make the difference for most students.
A monthly paycheck for a student with a full time job will be $1,360 before taxes. Half of that goes to rent. Now we will pretend that this student fills the car up once a week, that is $43.56. $88 goes to the robberbarons at PNM, and we will pretend the student eats about $100 in groceries a month. The student has $456.44 left before taxes, mind you to pay a phone bill, internet, car insurance and other monthly necessities. A student working full time with no dependants could probably survive this way, provided that student had no interest in saving any money for the future.
Most full time students will only work part time. In that case, the student is left with $8 after monthly rent. If a student has dependents, full-or part time, that student’s expenses will go up exponentially — kids are not cheap.
Online, ehow, cnn, msn, forbes and a host of other websites recommend not spending more than 30-35 percent of a monthly paycheck on housing. That means the full time working student needs an apartment that costs no more than $476/month and the parttime working student should look for one that costs $238. Perhaps, that is reasonable for a single student who does not mind a roommate or two.
In the end, the proposed wage increase will not help already low-income New Mexicans and will just give businesses a reason to raise prices. What is needed instead is a more robust wage increase that allows New Mexicans to find this fabled 35-percent-of-their-income housing and includes language that caps the amount businesses can increase their prices. Until then, any other wage increase is just a bandage on what is fast becoming a gaping wound.