Bill aims to fix state’s food inspector shortage problem

Politics - Government

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A state lawmaker is trying to bring in more food inspectors for the state. To do this, he wants to hike up food permit fees for restaurants.

New Mexico’s shortage of food inspectors has gotten the Feds’ attention and this bill hopes to solve that problem.

“In Gallup, Deming, Socorro, Carlsbad, Espanola, we’re down to zero or one person,” said New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney. “Which means if you’re in Socorro you have to drive to Los Lunas to submit an application.”

Senate Bill 209 would allow the Environment Department to propose an increase to the state’s food service fees from about $200 to $700 for restaurants while upping temporary food permits from $25 to $50 for things like fundraisers and school sporting events.

These inspectors are also responsible for the food inspections at public schools as well as the state fair. However, Sen. John Arthur Smith is cautious about the proposal. He’s worried the higher fees could hurt small businesses.

“This is a lift for them and we’ve got to be sensitive to that from that standpoint on that so I have concerns in those areas,” said Sen. Smith.

The state estimates the changes could bring in about $2.3 to hire about 20 full-time inspectors.

The bill did pass the Senate Finance Committee with some resistance. Part of the concern was that the state is already hiking up the minimum wage, which is costing restaurants.

These changes don’t apply to Albuquerque or Bernalillo County because they have their own inspectors. The City’s staffing problems have been well-documented.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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