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New Mexico House Passes Budget But Governor Wants More

The New Mexico House has passed the proposed budget for the upcoming year.
Kevin Meerschaert
The New Mexico House has passed the proposed budget for the upcoming year.

The New Mexico House unanimously passed a $9.44 billion budgeton Thursday that supporters say makes use of current funding for future needs.

The budget proposal is up about 12-percent from last year. It includes over $332 million for public schools which is 8.6 percent higher than last year’s and includes funding to pay for extending instruction time to 1140 hours, large increases in K-5 plus, and Extended Learning Time.

It also includes giving educators an average five-percent pay hike and improved health insurance coverage.

Flush with one-time-only dollars there is also $1.5 billion in infrastructure projects, maintenance activity, and other Transportation Department funding. 

House Appropriations and Finance Chair Nathan Small says those projects are shovel ready.

“Our Department of Transportation has lists that go many, many years into the future. The projects that are eligible in a special appropriation,” he said. “Those are absolutely ready to go and in fact in some cases we could lose federal funding for those projects if we don’t step forward and provide the state support that we’re contemplating in this budget.”      

The House Budget also includes $924 million in special appropriations, including 40 million each for recreation centers and law enforcement and 50 million to match federal dollars for alternative energy investment.

The budget maintains a 30-percent reserve fund and saves over $1 billion for tax changes.

Republicans questioned the amount of the budget and its sharp increase over last year’s.

Minority Floor Leader Ryan Lane says there could be some dangers ahead saying the legislature is both reaping the benefits of a strong oil and gas sector while at the same time making life difficult for the industry.     

“I just think that the model of relying on oil and gas with one hand and on the other hand having a sword toward the same industry is sustainable long-term,” he said. “So if that’s the approach the body is going to take which I think historically we have at least the last few years, then I think we need to have a serious discussion about continuing to grow the government at such a rate.”         

The House budget now heads to the Senate, where Gov. Michelle Lujhan Grisham would like to see a few changes.

Just after the House vote the Governor applauded the House for its work, but added the budget doesn’t go far enough in some of the areas she wants to focus.

For example the House backed $20 million for the Rural Health Delivery Fund instead of 200 million and Lujan Grisham  says the state is tens of million of dollars short for Opportunity Scholarships.