"Money Wallet" by 401(K) 2013 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic legislators want to link New Mexico’s statewide minimum wage to an inflation index to provide potentially automatic annual increases.

Draft bills from state Reps. Miguel Garcia of Albuquerque and Christine Chandler of Los Alamos were published Wednesday that would provide an automatic adjustment to the state’s minimum wage based on the consumer price index published by the U.S. Department of Labor. The proposals may be debated once the Legislature convenes on Jan. 17 for a 60-day session.

Gradual increases to the statewide minimum wage were adopted by lawmakers in 2019 and have run their course with a boost Jan. 1 to $12 per hour.

Chandler’s bill would initially raise the minimum wage to $16 an hour in 2024 with automatic annual increases thereafter to offset inflation.

The gap continues to grow between the 20 states following the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and the 30 others requiring more.

The highest state minimum wage in the nation is $15.74 an hour in Washington — more than double the federal rate.

U.S. inflation, an afterthought for decades, resurged with a vengeance in 2022, reaching heights unseen since the early 1980s.

Average wages haven’t kept up with prices, and lower-income households, which spend disproportionately more on housing, fuel and food, have been hit hardest. At the same time, businesses large and small are struggling to contain higher costs.