New Mexico House approves $8.47 billion budget

Largest spending bill in state history now moves to the Senate

By: - February 4, 2022 6:00 am

Rep. Patty Lundstrom announces details in the state’s budget bill passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday.

The New Mexico House of Representatives passed a $8.47 billion budget plan on Thursday with bipartisan support. 

Every sector in the state will benefit from the proposal, which boosts spending by 13.8%. The bill was passed by a 56-13 vote, with yes votes coming from 11 House Republicans and the lone independent in the chamber. 

“We’ve had an enormous opportunity and responsibility this session,” Rep. Patty Lundstrom (D-Gallup) said. “Our unprecedented revenues mean that we have a chance to make a real difference in New Mexico, and people are counting on us to do that. But we also have to do this in a responsible way.”

It now moves to the Senate, which can amend, approve or even reject the measure, sending it back to the House. The 30-day session ends Feb. 17.

Lundstrom said the spending budget maintains 30% of state revenues in reserves. She said the budget is based on oil prices at $64, which have now climbed to $90 a barrel for the first time since 2014. New Mexico’s oil and gas industry reported $5.3 billion in local and state tax revenue from last year, the largest in state history.

That money is now going to programs such as health care, infrastructure and raises for state employees across New Mexico.

Education

A record $3.87 billion in education spending was approved in the bill, an increase of over $400 million from the current public schools budget.

A7 % pay increase for all school personnel is included in the budget. The minimum pay for teachers, depending on experience and licensure, is also getting a boost. Overall, the state Public Education Department says this bill would raise average teacher salaries in New Mexico to about $64,000 annually. 

More than $40 million to train, recruit and help teachers with professional development was approved, an effort lawmakers say is to help fill the more than 1,000 teacher vacancies in the state. 

Efforts to boost education standards for Indigenous students comes via $14.9 million to the Indian Education Fund for tribal education departments, libraries and Native American language programs. 

Lundstrom said more than $50 million will go toward funding the Tribal Remedy Framework, however not all of that will go directly to initiatives such as the development of curriculum for Indigenous students. 

To address learning, more than $119 million will go to fund K-5 plus extended learning programs.

“That involves tutoring, data-guided instruction, coaching and a lot of other evidence-based practices,” Rep. Candie Sweetser (D-Deming) said. 

Police and public safety

Public safety efforts are also receiving prominent funding increases. 

New Mexico State Police officers are expected to see a 16% raise via the $9.4 million in the budget. $2.4 million will go toward raises for support personnel. More than $8 million will go toward the recruitment of new officers. 

This budget shows that we are committed to addressing crime and public safety through a multi-pronged approach,” Rep. Meredith Dixon (D-Albuquerque) said. “That means providing additional funding for evidence-based prevention measures, such as treatment, behavioral health care, transitional housing. as well as funding for data-driven violence prevention programs.”

State police will also receive $20 million for a command center in Albuquerque. The budget also includes $2.1 million for an “evidence based recidivism reduction program,” and transitional housing for people released from jail. 

Services for sexual assault victims will receive $2.6 million to fund their programs. Lundstrom said there could be more money toward those services from a Senate appropriation. 

Economy and public employee raises

Rep. Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces) said the state has included multiple projects to boost economic development, including $50 million for a venture capital fund to invest in local business projects. 

“This $50 million investment is going to mean that those ideas will have the resources, support and capacity to grow in-state,” he said, “not to have to leave like we’ve seen in the past.”

A 7% raise across the board is funded in this bill for the more than 75,000 people employed by the state, which includes a $15-an-hour minimum wage for state government employees.

Annual spending to state departments nearly mirrors the budget proposals of the Legislative Finance Committee and governor’s office at the start of the session. The bill is within .4%of their total budget recommendations.

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Most recently he covered Indigenous affairs with New Mexico In Depth. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.

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